Man in custody for impersonating Balaam on social media

Man in custody for impersonating Balaam on social media
Suspect Mark Andrew Asiimwe before Court. COURTESY PHOTO/URN

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Businessman Andrew Mark Asiimwe has been remanded to Luzira prison by the Standard, Utilities, and Wildlife Court in Kampala on charges of alleged impersonation and attempted electronic fraud. The accused, a resident of Bwera Mpondwe Kasese district, appeared before Grade One Magistrate, Sanura Nambozo, on Tuesday 18, July 2023.

According to court records, between January 2023 and July 2023, in Kampala and Kasese districts, Asiimwe purportedly assumed the identity of Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi and attempted to defraud John Twinomugisha. He deceived Twinomugisha into contributing funds to the non-existent MK Girl Child project, falsely linking it to the MK Movement, a pressure group allegedly supporting Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s potential presidency.

It was also revealed in court that Asiimwe attempted to solicit 49,000 pounds from Twinomugisha through electronic communication. Initially, he denied the charges but later pleaded guilty after they were read to him afresh. Asiimwe expressed remorse, citing financial difficulties as the reason for his criminal activities, and requested forgiveness from Balaam Barugahara for impersonating him on social media.

Balaam informed the court that Asiimwe had previously engaged in impersonating musicians and politicians through fake social media accounts. Asiimwe will remain in custody until July 25th, 2023, while the prosecution prepares to present brief facts before his conviction.

According to Barugahara’s testimony, Asiimwe utilized a fake Facebook account to deceive the public with counterfeit job opportunities in Canada and Germany, demanding registration fees, Interpol charges, and visa fees. He also claimed to have connections with senior officials in the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Special Forces Command (SFC), and the government for recruitment purposes.

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Victims of Asiimwe’s scams included individuals like Onegowun Eric, who sought employment in the Internal Security Organization (ISO) or State House. Asiimwe directed him to a person he identified as Major Asiimwe via telephone, who then requested payment for training and deployment.

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Further accounts revealed that another victim, Alex Isse, paid Asiimwe for yellow books and visa charges with the hope of securing jobs for his sisters in Canada, but instead received fake visas. Other victims, such as Rich Atwooki, Ekyatuhaire Rebecca, John Francis Twinomugisha, Ayebare John Ndema, Brundon Emmanuel, David Dav, Ronald Tana, Luweesi Samuel, Cherotwo Aziz, Bukenya Fred, Ade Kyla Adela, Wandera Joseph, Fred Mutaasa, Wanume George, Stephen Nguhirwa, Nasimbwa Olivia, Ajuna Judith, Kirega Kilovis, Yu Michael, and numerous others, also fell prey to Asiimwe’s fraudulent activities.

Security records revealed that Asiimwe had been previously arrested in June of the previous year for operating a Facebook account in the name of Gen Salim Saleh, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), and defrauding people in a similar manner.

Asiimwe confessed that his motivation for committing these crimes stemmed from being a victim of a fraud scheme in December 2020, where he allegedly lost 200,000 shillings to someone claiming to be Gen Salim Saleh’s personal assistant.