January 31, 2015
A week after wildlife officials impounded 791kg of ivory and 2,029kg of pangolin scales, details have emerged that the cargo was escorted by armed personnel to Entebbe International Airport.
Sources say attempts were made to bribe Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials at Entebbe to turn a blind eye to the cargo, which was destined for the Netherlands. Two of the officials refused to take the bribe and turned the tables against their colleagues, who had connived with the traffickers.
The cargo was cleared as “telecommunication equipment” from MTN that was being shipped to the Netherlands for repair, according to documents obtained by Saturday Vision.
When contacted about the matter, MTN officials in Kampala distanced themselves from the deal.
“I do not know anything about this case and we have not been approached by the Police or UWA,” said Anthony Katamba, MTN’s corporate affairs manager.
“MTN is a busy telephone company. We have no time for exporting ivory. We do not even know how much it costs. It should be obvious to you that somebody is using our name to deal in ivory.”
Asked why the suspects are delaying to appear in court, the commandant of Aviation Police, Lodovick Awita, said he was in Moroto and referred Saturday Vision to the officers investigating the case for a comment.
The officer in charge of criminal investigations at Entebbe, Makaris Erico, noted that he needed time to consult his colleagues, saying he would get back to the writer in 10 minutes.
However, he did not call back or pick repeated phone calls on his known cellphone.
According to Aviation Police at Entebbe, a cargo handler and clearing agent were arrested immediately after the deal was uncovered.
The driver of the truck that delivered the cargo, according to sources, took the team of wildlife officials and the Police to the house in Bunamwaya, Wakiso district, where the ivory and pangolin scales were loaded.
A weighing scale, ivory moulding machine and pangolin scales were recovered.
“The suspect in whose house evidence was recovered would be a prime suspect,” a source said, adding: “I do not see why they do not charge the suspects. This is a case where somebody was caught red-handed.”
According to sources, this could end up like many high-profile cases of wildlife crimes that have been reported to Police, but charges have never been brought against the suspects.