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Trader forfeits Sh45m smuggled cigarettes

cigarettes

Cigarettes are among the most smuggled fast-moving consumer goods. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The High Court on Wednesday ordered the forfeiture of more than Sh45 million belonging to a businessman accused of smuggling cigarettes from Uganda.

Justice James Wakiaga ruled that Josphat Kamau was given a chance to explain the source of the funds deposited in his three accounts at Equity Bank #ticker:EQTY, but failed to give a satisfactory answer.

The judge noted that his two lorries, which were nabbed in 2019 had been modified for the purpose of concealing unaccustomed goods.

“The applicant (Assets Recovery Agency) having placed evidence before me showing that the respondent was engaged in smuggling for which he has been charged, the burden therefore shifted upon the respondent to show that his was a legitimate business undertaking through proper accounting documents,” the judge said.

Justice Wakiaga said Mr Kamau failed to produce any licences issued to him by relevant authorities in support of the undertakings he was engaged in, leading to the only logical conclusion, that his motor vehicles were used for smuggling goods to Uganda and the funds in the said accounts were therefore, proceeds of crime.

The two lorries belonging to Mr Kamau were impounded carrying 240 and 150 cartons of Supermatch cigarettes worth Sh9.7 million in October 2019 and the driver charged before an Eldoret court.

An analysis of his bank statements revealed suspicious transactions of Sh24.2 million which coincided with the border crossing of his two vehicles.

The deposits were made in tranches below Sh1 million to evade the reporting threshold. It was further revealed that Mr Kamau a total of Sh40.6 million two days prior and two days after his vehicles crossed Lwakhakha border point some 13 times and on all the occasions the driver declared that the vehicle was empty.

When asked to explain about the money, Mr Kamau stated that he was a businessman dealing with cereals and transportation and a proprietor of Tiphat Transporters but the business had no registration.

He was unable to identify the locations where his main suppliers operated from and was not aware that his motor vehicle had been modified to include a secret compartment.

Mr Kamau defended himself saying the business was financed through loans which he was struggling to pay and the freezing of his accounts and vehicles was hurting the business.

“I am therefore satisfied that the Applicant (ARA) has proved based on evidence that the funds held in the Respondent’s bank account in the absence of any rebuttable evidence to the contrary are proceeds of crime and are therefore liable to forfeiture to the state,” the Judge said.