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KAMPALA: Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court has committed three foreigners to High Court for trial on charges of unlawful possession of elephant tusks worth Shs9 billion.
The suspects are: Mr Kromah Moazu, a Liberian national, Mr Kourouma Bangaly and Mr Mohammed Kourouma both Guinean nationals.
They are charged with unlawful possession of protected species, unlawful possession of restricted goods, unlawful importation of specimen of protected species, conspiracy to commit offence and money laundering.
Prosecution contends that on February 17, 2017 at Najjanankumbi in Rubaga Division, Kampala, the accused were found in possession of 437 pieces of ivory weighing 1.303.76kg valued at Shs 9.3bn, which are restricted goods under the Uganda Wild Life Act and an offence under the East African Community Management Act of 2004.
The charge sheet indicates that the ivory in question was brought from Burundi without a valid import permit through a conspiracy between the accused persons.
On money laundering, the prosecution states that the lead suspect Mr Moazu, between 2014 and 2017 for the purpose of disguising the illicit origin of $190,000 (nearly Shs685m), transferred and received the said funds from Vannaseng Trading Company account d in Lao People’s Democratic Republic of Asia on an account in his names at Eco Bank Parliamentary Avenue Branch in Kampala. He committed the offence with the aid of his co-accused.
The presiding magistrate Ms Gladys Kamasanyu committed the accused to the High Court following the submission by the state prosecutor Mr Jonathan Muwaganya that investigations into the case had been completed.
Mr Muwaganya told court that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had issued clear instructions for the suspects to be committed to the High Court for trial.
The indictment contends that on January 5, 2016 Mr Bangaly was arrested in possession of two elephant tusks at Mengo in Kampala and was taken to the Central Police Station (CPS) but released on police bond as investigations continued.
“After releasing Mr Bangaly on bond, he never reported back to police but exited Uganda for an unknown destination via Katuna border post as a pedestrian on March 31, 2016,” the charge sheets on the case file reads in part.
It further states: “In February 2017, police got intelligence information that Mr Bangaly had sneaked back into the country and together with others was coordinating a racket of ivory and Rhino traffickers in Uganda. On February 17, 2017 police working with officers from the Natural Resources Conservation Network, an NGO collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Authority in fighting wildlife crime, got information that Mr Bangaly was at Garden City Shopping Mall.”
Detectives went to Garden City Shopping Mall and arrested Bangaly. Upon his arrest he was asked to disclose where he and his colleagues Moazu and Mohammed Kourouma were keeping the ivory and Rhino horns. The detectives were led to an enclosed home in Najjanankumbi, Stella Zone in Kampala were his colleagues were also arrested.
The exhibits include pieces of ivory and a cutting machine.