City lawyer, 2 police officers remanded over conning American $6m in gold scam

City lawyer , two others remanded over gold scam
The Accused Persons in Court.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | City lawyer Simon Peter Musangala and two Uganda police deserters spent the night in Kitalya prison where they are remanded on charges of money laundering arising from a bogus gold deal.

The other suspects are former police constable Martin Bwayo alias Captain Bob and his alleged accomplice Enock Katwesigye alias Colonel Frank, residents of Kyaliwajala, Lukade Zone in Kira Municipality in Wakiso District and Munyonyo, Makindye Division in Kampala District respectively who masqueraded as senior UPDF officers who transact gold on behalf of key government officials.

The trio appeared on Wednesday 17th, February 2021 before the Anti-Corruption Court Grade One Magistrate, Abert Asiimwe on charges of money laundering, facilitating money laundering and cheating.

Court heard that between March 2020 and February 2021 while at Stanbic Bank Crested Towers Branch in Kampala District, Bwayo, Katwesigye and others still at large acquired USD 6 million [approx. Shs 21.9 billion] well knowing that the funds were proceeds of crime.

They reportedly received the money from American national, Anastasia Belesis, 46, under the guise of selling him gold. Musangala is accused of facilitating the bogus transaction.

Asiimwe didn’t allow the accused persons to plead to the charges, saying his court lacks jurisdiction to try money laundering offences. With the exception of the offence of cheating, which is a misdemeanour, Asiimwe advised the trio to plead to the charges in High Court.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the offence of cheating. Asiimwe advised the accused to apply for bail in High Court, which has jurisdiction to entertain money laundering cases.

The State Attorney, David Mugamba told the court that investigations into the matter were still ongoing. This didn’t go down well with the suspect’s lawyers led by Caleb Alaka, who protested the decision to arraign their clients before the court when investigations are incomplete.

Alaka told the magistrate that when Justice Jane Frances Abodo assumed her roles as the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP], she promised not to arraign anyone in court without completing investigations.

He asked court to direct the DPP to expedite investigations and disclose to the defence team the evidence they have against their clients. Asiimwe said the case is of public interest since it involves huge sums of money.

He directed the Prosecution to expedite investigations and remanded the accused person to Kitalya prison up to March 3, 2021.

How it all started     

The accused persons got in touch with their victim through their Kenya based friend, who had been approached by the American National in search of gold.

According to the Spokesperson of the Criminal Investigations Department, Charles Twine, the suspects then got in touch with their victim indicating that were trading in gold in Uganda through their firm, Balaka Gold Minerals Limited. 

Police claims that upon his arrival in Uganda, Anastasia Belesis met with the two of the accused persons who asked him to pay US$ 5.5 million to enable them to process for him a gold operating license from Uganda Revenue Authority [URA], which the victim did. 

To gain his trust, the accused persons told their victim that he needed to go through several procedures including registering a company, employing some Ugandans and securing clearance from the government’s mineral department among others since they only deal in genuine business.   

According to police, the accused person later reached out to their victim informing him that they had secured for him a license and upon his arrival in the country asked him to pay US$ 8 million to buy Gold through their company.  

Belesis allegedly paid the suspects an initial deposit of US$ 1.25 million along Entebbe Road and asked them to leave the venue where they had met. 

Twine says they were supposed to get the balance from the suspect at another venue. The suspects reportedly advised their victim to get security, saying Ugandans would steal the gold from him.

Read Also: Gold importers in Uganda now tasked to classify country of origin

However, the group was reportedly intercepted by seven gunmen wearing uniforms similar to those of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces [UPDF], who were also part of the deal. 

According to Twine, the gunmen reportedly directed Katwesigye, who was masquerading as a colonel to go and talk to his boss but leave the gold with them.

“Col frank told me he was engaging the security men so that they could allow me to take my gold. He engaged them on the side and he later told me they had refused. I was asked to pay $750,000 more, but I became suspicious of endless expenses,” Belesis said.

It was at that point that Belesis’s friend told him to file a case at CID headquarters. The case was entered on GEF 086/2021. Fraud and money laundering detectives were assigned by CID director AIGP Grace Akullo to trace the culprits.

The investigations led to the arrest of the two police officers and CID spokesperson, ASP Charles Twine, said detectives are now looking for other suspects who masqueraded as soldiers and hijacked the gold truck.

At the time of arrest, ASP Twine said the genuine gold has gone missing. Police have encouraged investors to avoid concealed transactions in order to avoid being duped by fraudsters. Police are now looking to attach the property which was purchased using conned money.