Shs2.4 billion heist in city sparks controversy

Intercepted. Before the robbers can execute the plan, they are intercepted by ISO operatives, who shoot two dead. The driver of the van flees with a box containing money. ILLUSTRATION BY IVAN SSENYONJO

What you need to know:

  • Revealed. Contrasting accounts emerge of armed men were shot dead by security operatives as they had planned to rob money from a bullion van.

Kampala. The scheme was elaborate, according to official account. A bullion van on a routine trip had collected in excess of Shs2.4b in cash from Kayunga and Mukono Stanbic Bank branches.
Its return journey to the city centre was interrupted at Kyambogo, eastern Kampala outskirt, and two people shot dead in what the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) said was an encounter between its operatives and suspected robbers.
One victim was post-humously identified as Pte Bright Turyatunga, who is alleged to have routinely moonlighted as an armed robber after he in 2012 deserted the army where he served under the Special Forces Command (SFC).
Particulars of the second individual who was gunned could not readily be established. Both bodies were taken to the City Mortuary for autopsy.
Col Kaka Bagyenda, the director general of the domestic spy agency, told journalists yesterday afternoon that an informer tipped them about some suspected robbers trailing a bullion van.
They deployed a counter team who caught up with them at Kyambogo. The face-off culminated in cross-fire and the death of the duo.

Efforts. Police with exhibits recovered from the crime scene near Kyambogo in Kampala on March 6, 2019

According to ISO, their operatives intercepted the bullion van as the suspected robbers they said had connived with the driver, removed cash from the van and stashed it in a Toyota Premio car.
At this point, guards in the van were unconscious after being fed on food laced with sedatives during the city in-bound trip, operatives reported.


  • Police explain how former Museveni guard was killed in foiled robbery

    Bright Turyatunga, a former SFC officer and another person were killed after they were intercepted reportedly trying to remove cash from the van to their small car

  • Museveni's security team disowns soldier killed in foiled robbery

    SFC spokesperson, Cpt Jimmy Omara said Pte Bright Turyatunga was no longer part of their team since he deserted about seven years ago

  • SFC soldier, two others sent to Luzira over murder

    The Magistrates Court at Makindye presided over by the Grade One Magistrate Irene Nambatya yesterday remanded Pte Michael Musinguzi to Luzira Prison until March 21

Four thugs and the van driver fled with about Shs671m in Uganda currency and Pounds5,000 (Shs22m), ISO claimed, without explaining how they had precise figures of the stolen money when the escapees remain at large.
That is not the only contradiction. The suspected thugs, the agency said, also ran away with nine bags of Uganda currency coins containing Shs2.5m, but left behind a less weighty box containing $90,722 (Shs329m) in cash.
Overall, cash in the van was worth Shs2.4b, according to the spies.
Col Bagyenda’s press conference yesterday happened roughly 18 hours after the incident and witnesses we spoke to, offered a rather contrasting account.
For instance, one witness said the bullion van made a turn off at Jinja highway towards Kyambogo University at around 8pm on Tuesday after the driver sensing that he was being trailed.
A double cabin pick-up truck carrying ISO operatives raced past a white Premio and blocked the bullion van roughly 200 metres off the Jinja highway. The operatives later told nearby police that they ordered occupants of the Premio out, but they declined, which prompted them to shoot.

Plot. The driver of the bullion van gives security guards food and drink laced with sedatives and they dose off as he works to execute his plan with the armed robbers.

A source familiar with the operation said there was no blood stain in the victims’ car. An officer at Kyambogo Lower Police Post responded to the crime scene following the shooting. The officer reportedly found one of the suspected robbers, whom a bullet hit on the head had passed on.
The other took a bullet to the chest and as he struggled to speak to the police officer, one of the ISO operatives allegedly ordered a colleague to “finish him off”.
He was shot again at least twice, and he died on the spot. The spies in another account said they shot at the men because they tried to escape.
Their bodies were, however, found slumped on one another and close to the Premio car from which they reportedly escaped.
Another witness said the spies, after the shooting, opened the bullion van, picked and stashed some of the cash in their car and loaded more on a boda boda rider that sped away.
ISO operatives also prevented police from taking possession of or escorting the van, which following the incident, would be an exhibit in the alleged robbery. They escorted it and the van was displayed at the ISO headquarters yesterday.

Efforts. Col Kaka Bagyenda, the ISO director general.

Ms Cathy Adengo, the Stanbic Bank head of corporate communications, said: “We confirm an incident occurred on Tuesday evening. However, the matter is still under investigation.”
Police in a statement issued yesterday said investigators had recovered a pistol, an AK-47 rifle and cartridges of spent bullets.
“Efforts are in place to put the puzzle together and find answers to what exactly happened,” Police spokesperson Fred Enanga noted, dovetailing with the contrast in narratives surrounding the incident.
The SFC spokesperson, Maj Jimmy Omara, confirmed that Pte Turyatunga was a former soldier under their unit but he deserted and later involved in criminal activities for which he had a stint in prison.
“After serving his jail term, he (Turyatunga) was released but he again conducted another robbery in which one person was killed along Masaka Road,” he said. A G4S security controller, who declined to reveal his name, said they “don’t have any information about” the incident. The Tuesday heist, one of the biggest in recent years, comes weeks after armed men held employees of a bank hostage at a city branch and assaulted some of them.

Some of the past bank robberies

February 17, 2019: Four robbers, including a Uganda People’s Defence Forces deserter, robbed Shs130m from a savings cooperative in Rushere, Kiruhura District. One of the suspects was arrested in Kampala City and police recovered Shs20m.
February 13, 2019: There was an attempted robbery at dfcu Bank- Bwaise branch on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road. The robbers failed to access the safe and assaulted bank staff.

May 22, 2015: Security guards diverted a bullion van at Nateete, a Kampala suburb, and made off with Shs620m they had collected from DTB Bank branches. They abandoned the bullion in Rubaga Division.
December 15, 2014: Police shot dead two suspected robbers and arrested one in Kololo, a Kampala suburb. The suspects had targeted a car that was transporting money from a local bank.

December 24, 2013: Police foiled an armed robbery at Kampala Casino in which Shs150m was to be robbed. Five people, including two police officers at the rank of a corporal, were arrested.

Mr Fred Enanga, Police spokesperson

November 15, 2014: Five people robbed Shs52m from Diamond Trust Bank Nakivubo Branch. They were arrested after a one-month hunt. The five suspects included a guard security guard who provided security at the same branch hours before the incident.

January 24, 2013: Armed men stole Shs720m from a manager of Bank of India, Uganda, as he was taking it to Standard Chartered Bank.
Compiled by Andrew Bagala