By John Kamya
THE black dollar scam in which people lost millions of shillings in the past is back. Without changing any tactics, conmen are fleecing unsuspecting people of millions of shilling, by deceiving them that they can turn black pieces of paper into genuine US dollars.
In a recent incident, Joseph Bugembe of Kawempe lost 20m to Mark Kawesi and Danson Kibalama, both of Bunga. The police arrested the culprits when they were in the process of receiving even more money from the â€˜victims.â€™
The conmen normally approach a rich person whom they tell that they found a box full of black papers that can be converted into dollars, after an accident involving Americans from a UN agency, transporting relief to disaster areas, or from American embassy staff.
They carry coloured headed papers labelled â€œUS Federal Reserve Notes Department. Treasury of the US Government, Washington D.C,â€ to convince their gullible victims. The papers look authentic and bare the American flag and national emblem.
The paper, which is purported to be an instruction manual, contains the following information:
â€œThis currency is donated to countries recognised by the American Technical Aid Committee of the Federal Reserve Notes Department USA.
Money aid is justifiable in emergencies where disaster relief is necessary to countries at war. This donation is approved by both the US Government and the Federal Reserve Department. The American Government has donated billions of US dollars to war countries and international Banks around the world, which are located in war zones using the method of ANTI BREEZES system.
Anti breeze chemicals have been used to darken the money in order to avoid criminal interception, in transporting it to donated countries such as hi-jacking, armed robberies, etc.
The Federal reserve Notes Department has used this system to easily send US dollars to countries such Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra-Leone, Liberia and DR Congo.â€
The instructions go on and on and by the time you are finished with reading them, you may be convinced that this is a lucrative deal. Then comes the statement that breaks even the strongest of wills.
â€œThis pack contains $1,500,000 in compressed bills. Do not allow air to enter into the pack. Failure to follow this warning might damage the entire consignmentâ€
At this point, the conmen convince you by cleaning one or two of the black papers using some special chemical. The papers turn into dollar bills, which they will even dare you test. When taken to forex bureaus, the bill is tested and found to be genuine.
The catch is that the cleaned bills are genuine dollars, painted black and planted on top of a pack of fake black papers, as a bait. After proving that the dollars can be sold on the forex market, the conmen convince their victims to provide money to purchase more chemicals so as to clean the rest of the papers.
Various phone calls are made and the victims are driven in the direction of the American embassy purportedly to meet the â€˜people who work thereâ€™, but they never allow their victims to come any closer to the embassy.
People wearing fake US embassy identity tags emerge, with an headed paper, this time containing the prices of the different Chemicals, in thousands of dollars. Other meetings are then arranged in big hotels.
If you buy the chemicals, the deal is supposed to be worth sh30m. The conman is supposed to wash bills worth $500,000, which they claim they will share equally with you. If however, you can only afford chemicals worth sh10m, they say up to $1.5m will be cleaned and equally shared.
â€œThe scam had disappeared in the recent past but is now back againâ€, said Edison Mbiringi, the acting Commissioner of Police, in charge of crime at the Criminal Investigation Department.
The black dollar scam hit its peak in July 2001, when in a record two weeks, the police recorded 41 cases involving the loss of sh413,356,000.
Among those who lost money were Adam Sebugwaawo and Fred Kizza who both lost $40,000 and sh66m in the scam respectively.
Many other cases in which huge amounts of money were lost, were not reported to the police, because the victims were high profile people, who did not want to be exposed.
The scum traces its origin to foreign countries, particularly Nigeria and South Africa.
On July 17 2001, Craig Gravenor, a south African national, was deported after he was traced to more than five such cases.
In a letter to Ugandan authorities, the American embassy denied knowledge of the existence of black dollar scheme, which is also unknown to the Federal Reserve Notes Department Treasury of the US Government. A senior official in the US embassy who preferred anonymity, advises people not to be deceived.
â€œIf it is too good to be true, then it is too good to be true,â€ he said.
Both the conmen and their alleged victims commit a crime by involving themselves in this deal.
The charge is conspiracy to purchase forged bank notes and carries a seven years prison term.
Black dollars hit the market