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URA to fight flow of illicit money

“Institutions can create a hostile environment. We have to make the environment so hostile, so unattractive. If we do that as government agencies here in the room and others we have not included in the conversation there will be no IFFs,” DPP Jane Frances Abodo.

The statement above comes a time when Uganda has been unlisted from the grey list by The Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Uganda Revenue Authority, Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Uganda Police, Uganda Wild Life (UWA), and IGG met at Mestil Hotel Kampala at a symposium to forge ways of eliminating financial crimes in the country.

Under the theme, “Enhanced Collaboration in the fight against illicit financial flows”, the meeting agreed on training and capacity building in gathering information and handling investigations, forensic investigations in economic crimes, quality data collection, collaboration, information sharing, setting civil laws for asset tracking and recovery, interstate collaboration, and setting a hostile environment for economic criminals.

Opening the symposium, the Director of Public Prosecution Hon. Justice Frances Abodo said that Uganda’s purpose is to strengthen the national task force to effectively coordinate an all-government approach to the crimes which includes strengthening the capacity of institutions involved in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing crimes.

She highlighted that Uganda is losing massive wealth to IFFs.

“Every year we lose a massive volume of wealth to corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering enabled by IFFs. Uganda is losing it to trade mis-invoicing and corruption.  We should turn all our guns to mis-invoicing,” said Abodo.

Representing the Commissioner General, Robert Mutebi Commissioner Information Technology and Innovations said that IFFs are a restraint to revenue mobilisation.

“Last year, we (URA) made strides in revenue collection. However, our achievements are somewhat curtailed by the pervasive challenges of illicit financial activities, such as invoice trading and money laundering. These activities not only erode our revenue base but also undermine the economic welfare of our nation.”

He urged prosecutors and investigators to be more vigilant.

“Your role extends beyond prosecution; it is about affirming the strength of our justice system and ensuring that those who seek to undermine it are held accountable.”

Robert stated, “Prosecutors dealing with corruption are in a very sensitive professional position and therefore they must demonstrate absolute integrity and neutrality, acting independently of any kind of bias, preferences or factors, and guided only by the law. Prosecutors should also avoid any risk of undue pressure, be it external or internal.”

The Ag. Commissioner Legal Services and Board Affairs Stella Nyapendi acknowledged 27 prosecution licenses held by URA have enabled the team to handle 29 convictions, and 92 cases of smuggling, invoice trading, and fraud in the 2023/2024 financial year.

Nyapendi said, “The effects of money laundering are far-reaching cutting across tax evasion, illegal wildlife trade, smuggling, corruption, and terrorism financing at the extreme.”

Other areas include; trade mis-invoicing, evading customs duties, Value Added Tax, Income Tax or a corrupt public official using an anonymous shell (non-existent companies) to transfer unclean money to another country, a human trafficker carrying a briefcase of cash across the country, illegal mineral trade and trafficking I persons and depositing it in a foreign bank or a member of a terrorist organization wiring money from one region to an operative in another region.

The recently launched Uganda Police annual crime report 2023 has 12,924 economic crime and corruption cases.

The global financial integrity think tank classifies illicit financial flows as illegally earning, transferring, and or utilizing funds across an international border.

According to Hon. Justice Frances Abodo Uganda faces the problem of being a cash economy hence difficulty in tracking the flow of money, limited collaboration, and technological gaps.

“When you don’t have a cash economy, you can follow the money but how do you follow the money which is under beds, how do you follow money which is under mattresses.”

Abodo added, “We know that the People moving this money are very intelligent and well-connected. The Institutions fighting this should be well-resourced, we should be two steps ahead of these fraudsters but most of the time we are three steps behind them. These IFFCs are committed to using technology. Very few come across borders carrying money.”

She called for continuous training, leveraging technology, and utilizing informal contacts.

“By getting off the grey list, we can demonstrate that we are fighting money laundering, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing.  We are not putting off the fire, we are ready to fight. We just need a political commitment,” said Manager of Strategic Analysis and Statistics Ms. Aikiriza Esther Kagira

Other areas agreed upon are pooling ideas, resources, and energies together to devise innovative and effective strategies to combat financial crimes.

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