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10 police officers held for stealing from thief

10 police officers held for stealing from thief
Patrick Onyango, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson. PHOTO/FILE

Police in Kampala have taken 10 officers into custody over allegations of robbing Shs146m from suspected thieves accused of stealing Shs407m from a Burundian national on April 27, 2023.

Three men on a motorcycle, according to investigators, grabbed a bag containing $110,000 (Shs407m) and Euros700 (Shs2.9m) from their victim shortly after he exited a forex bureau in Makindye, a city suburb.

The Burundian national passed out upon losing the money, but volunteers resuscitated him before one of the helpers telephoned a police informer the same day to alert law enforcement about the crime.

Detectives found out that the interlocutor contacted Crime Intelligence (CI) officers at Katwe Police Station who hit the ground running.
They got the victim whom they promised to help out after he narrated how his cash was grabbed by unknown thugs.

A source close to the inquiries said the police Crime Intelligence officers, without notifying their superiors or opening a case file in line with standard police case handling procedure, the next day tracked the suspects to Gangu, Masajja in Makindye Division.

The officers recovered the unspent cash from the place of abode who they arrested and booked at Katwe Police Station. They then, as required by procedure, turned the case over to their counterparts in the Criminal Investigations Directorate.

All seemed calm. Then the suspects told interrogators that the arresting officers declared less money than they had recovered from them, turning the hunters into the hunters.

Within moments, the officers were arrested and held for two days at the same Katwe Police Station where they had locked up the suspected thieves they arrested in Makindye.

Investigators preferred charges of aggravated robbery against the law enforcers because their operation to arrest the first suspects and cash recovery involved use of guns.

They were detained for 48 hours and released, according to multiple sources briefed on the matter.

Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, confirmed the accounts efforts are underway to recover all of the stolen cash so that it can be turned over to the distressed owner.

He said the officers declared to detectives that they recovered $20,000 (Shs74m) and Euro500 (Shs2.1m), which was $90,000 (Shs333m) and Euros200 (Shs840,000) less than what the suspect said he lost.

“When the suspects were interrogated, they revealed that the officers who arrested them recovered $50,000 (Shs185m) and Euro500 (Shs2.1m), but officers declared at the police only $20,000 (Shs74 million) and Euro120 (Shs504,000),” Mr Onyango said.

The complainant had told detectives that Shs407m was stolen from him.

IMr Onyango said the discrepancies in the figures of the missing and recovered cash prompted investigators to scrutinise statements made by the initial suspects and the three officers who arrested them in order to help establish the facts.

In line with procedure, a general inquiry file was opened for anyone with information regarding the matter to provide information or evidence that could clarify the claims and or incriminate the accused.

“After investigations, the investigators reached a conclusion that the 10 officers who participated in the arrest of the suspects should be questioned again and their homes search[ed] with the intention of finding the missing money,” said the spokesperson.

After the arrest and search, he said, the investigators didn’t recover any money or other material evidence.

The officers were released on police bond as investigations to trace the missing money continue.

The three suspects were transferred to Old Kampala Police Station, which holds jurisdiction over the area where the crime was committed.

Worrying trend

The recent police annual crime report indicates an increase of cases reported to police by 30 percent. In the year 2022, 6,854 robberies cases were reported to the police compared to 5,275 cases reported in 2021.

Simple robbery cases were 4,338 while aggravated robbery-complaints topped 2,516. By the end of 2022, out of the total cases of robberies reported to police, 1,831 cases were taken to court, 224 did not go beyond police, while 4,799 remained under inquiry.