Police officer among seven arrested over stolen HIV drugs

Police officer among seven arrested over stolen HIV drugs
The recovered government drugs

Kyenjojo, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | In a collaborative effort between the Uganda Police Force and the Uganda National Drug Authority (UNDA), a substantial quantity of government drugs was confiscated in the Kyenjojo and Ntoroko districts, with an estimated value exceeding Shs 300 million.

During a press briefing on Monday 25, September 2023, Vincent Twesige, the spokesperson for the Rwenzori West police, revealed that seven individuals, including a police officer, are presently detained at the Fort Portal Central Police Station. They are facing charges related to the unlawful possession of government supplies, running unlicensed pharmacies, abuse of authority, and negligence in the performance of their duties, among other allegations.

The arrested individuals comprise Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Tuke Katuramu, who was in charge of Kyejonjo Police Health Centre II, Denis Blessing, the proprietor of Blessing Pharmacy in Kyenjojo, Tom Bwebale, Isiah Isingoma, Allan Samuel Mwesige, the head of Bweramule Health Centre III, Mary Mbabazi, a storekeeper at the same health facility, and Alex Mbusa, a porter at Bweramule Health Centre III. All of them hail from Ntoroko district.

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Rwenzori West police spokesperson Vincent Twesige

Twesige commended the vigilant members of the public for their invaluable role in helping apprehend the suspects. They provided critical information to law enforcement authorities regarding the illicit trade of government drugs.

Abiaz Rwamwiri, the spokesperson for UNDA, detailed that, during an intelligence-driven operation in Ntoroko district, Mbusa was found in possession of numerous drug boxes hidden in the ceiling of his residence. Subsequently, Mbusa confessed that some of the ‘brokers’ he collaborated with were selling the drugs on the black market in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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Rwamwiri disclosed that the seized government drugs encompassed antimalarials, HIV/antiviral drugs, Hepatitis B testing kits, and various other essential pharmaceuticals. He expressed concern about the improper storage conditions, with many drugs being subjected to elevated temperatures contrary to the recommended cool and dry storage conditions, potentially posing risks to recipients.

“Blessing was operating an illegal pharmacy, and this operation uncovered an illegal distribution chain of drugs in remote areas. He believed our operations wouldn’t reach these areas, but upon his arrest, several drugs were recovered from his stores,” Rwamwiri added.

Rwamwiri emphasized that the actions of the suspects were jeopardizing the community’s access to vital medications, particularly antiretrovirals, which could result in drug resistance among the intended beneficiaries.