Anti-money laundering law claims first casualties in Uganda

Saturday June 24 2017

Uganda’s Anti-Money Laundering Act claimed its

Uganda’s Anti-Money Laundering Act claimed its first victims last month, when a court issued convictions of money laundering suspects in a landmark case that analysts say may influence future suits. PHOTO | FILE 

By BERNARD BUSUULWA
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Uganda’s Anti-Money Laundering Act claimed its first victims last month, when a court issued convictions of money laundering suspects in a landmark case that analysts say may influence future suits.

On May 30, Justice Margaret Tibulya of the Anti-Corruption Court found five of seven suspects guilty of embezzlement; causing financial loss; money laundering and conspiracy to commit a felony against Equity Bank Uganda Ltd in 2015.

Of the five convicts, four were found guilty of money laundering while one was found guilty of causing financial loss in a fraud that saw Equity Bank Uganda Ltd lose $1.5 million.

Money laundering charges accounted for nine counts. The suspects were Serwamba David Musoke, Okoth Reagan and Kavuma Moses, who are former employees of Equity Bank Uganda Ltd, and Kalungi Abubaker, Shafiq Mubarak, Keeya Matthew and Serwamba Isaac.

Two accused— Kavuma Moses and Serwamba Isaac — were acquitted on the grounds that they did not participated in crafting the embezzlement and money laundering schemes hatched by the lead offenders. The duo had spent two years on remand in Luzira Prison prior to their acquittal.

During the hearing, the court heard that the suspects connived to steal the money from bank accounts belonging to two South Sudanese clients and Forton East Africa, a motor dealership business, at the Oasis Mall branch of Equity Bank Uganda Ltd with the help of persons who impersonated the victims.

The funds were stolen in amounts of $700,000, $500,000 and $250,000 using fraudulent transaction procedures; no biometric verification was done on the purported clients, payments were made using counter leafs contrary to the bank’s policy that required use of cheques when processing inter-country transactions. In addition, the amounts involved were higher than the branch transaction limit.

But CCTV footage showed the South Sudanese clients had not appeared at the branch for two days while Forton East Africa’s account bore insufficient funds that could not support huge withdrawals; a discovery that set off alarm bells in the bank. Consequently, the affected clients were refunded by Equity Bank Uganda and investigations commenced into the fraud.

Evidence presented by the prosecution showed Serwamba David Musoke bought a Mercedes Benz car worth Ush80 million($22,031) after the incident.