By Chris Kiwawulo
A new wave of robbery, where thugs disguise themselves as security operatives to extort money from unsuspecting victims has hit Kampala, Sunday Vision has learnt.
The thugs, some of whom are said to have links with security agents, usually move in hired saloon cars and target rich people, especially business persons.
The thugs mainly pose as operatives from the Police, the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT) and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), sources told Sunday Vision.
Although the Police said they do not have statistics of suspects arrested posing as security operatives, there have been several cases reported at various Police stations in Kampala in the recent past. Kampala Metropolitan region ISO boss, Maj. Julius Aine, said conmen often impersonate security operatives.
“We operate within civilians, so cases of impersonation can happen. But I am willing to be a witness in courts of law once any person purporting to be working with me has been arrested. Besides, officers from our organisation do not extort money from people,” he observed. Aine promised to investigate the matter further and find out those behind the crime.
The thugs reportedly make up stories of cases implicating the businessmen and extort money from them. The latest victims are mostly Asian businessmen, according to Police sources.
Recently, cops arrested Collins Kato, a 33-year-old businessman from Wakiso, who reportedly impersonated minister Sam Kutesa and attempted to extort sh165m from an Asian investor, Vasvada Asis, the proprietor of the Kololo-based Mara Group.
Kato claimed the minister wanted the money to travel for an international conference. Sources said the imposters also falsely accuse businessmen of having links with terrorist groups before they extort money from them.
A prominent city businessman recently told Sunday Vision that conmen are the reason why he does not pick phone calls from numbers unknown to him.
“Most of the businessmen part with money out of fear, not knowing that they are being conned,” said an operative who has investigated such cases.
During investigations, some thugs were apprehended as they went to pick money in the city centre.
The deputy Police spokesperson, Vincent Sekate, warned the public to always be on alert and ask for identification in case anyone goes to them claiming to be an operative, especially those in plain clothes.
“People should stand firm and ask those who present themselves as operatives for identification. But this is not to say that such people should be beaten because that is mob justice and it is a crime. Even if someone is found to be a fake operative, people should take them to the nearest Police station,” he advised.
Sekate revealed that the Police usually encourages operatives to introduce themselves at the nearest Police station before carrying out an operation in a given area.
Sekate added that even when someone has been found to be a genuine operative, but they are asking for money, they should be reported to the relevant authorities, such as the Professional Standards Unit that regulates the conduct of Police officers.