Monday,October 26,2020 10:34 AM

Ugandans take car theft to new levels

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th February 2004 03:00 AM

WATCH OUT! The vehicle you are cruising in could be stolen from Japan.

WATCH OUT! The vehicle you are cruising in could be stolen from Japan.

By Yunusu Abbey

WATCH OUT! The vehicle you are cruising in could be stolen from Japan.

Police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi said the foreign affairs ministry in Kampala recently wrote to CID Director, Elizabeth Kuteesa, over the matter.

Mugenyi said foreign affairs had received complaints from Tokyo about Ugandans stealing vehicles, motor bikes and spare parts in Japan.

“The Japanese complained that some Ugandans go there(Japan) purporting to be car importers and spare parts dealers. But they often end up stealing vehicles and spare parts,” Mugenyi said.

He said the CID Headquarters had already opened a file, interrogated and recorded statements from four suspects in Kampala over the thefts.

“The investigations are still going on,” Mugenyi said.

Observers say the Japanese embassy has to thoroughly screen applicants and impose stringent requirements before visas are issued to intending travellers.

Reports indicate some shrewd Ugandans are still going to Japan for dubious missions.

These are mainly the young and often-smartly dressed men who hang out on William Street, Wilson Road, Luwum Street and other places in the city centre.

“They mainly go there to steal vehicles and the high-powered motorbikes which are on high demand and very expensive both in Japan and Europe,” says a source.

The New Vision first broke the story of Ugandans stealing motorbikes in Japan in October 2000. At the time, two Ugandans were arrested with the stolen bikes.

Today, over three years since The New Vision exposed the racket.

The recent arrest of two Ugandans in Japan substantiates the allegations, which started circulating in 2000.

The suspects were allegedly part of a big racket, which steals vehicles in Japan, dismantles them and then ships them to Kampala.

Shakur Kiyingi, 33, and Nuhu Lubega, 24,were arrested and detained at Okazi Police Station in Nagoya. Also in custody was their Ghanaian accomplice, Kwako Nomi.

Latest reports show the trio, were engaging a lawyer to bail them out.
Kiyingi, also known as Bbosa Shaft, was described as the 'ring leader' and an 'old hand' in the game of stealing vehicles in Japan.

“He (Shaft) has been involved in the racket for quite sometime and his arrest is good riddance to us, who go to Japan, for genuine business, says a local businessman who frequents Japan.

“It's the likes of Kiyingi and his accomplices who have tarnished the image of Ugandans in Japan. That's why today when one introduces himself as a Ugandan in Japan, he is either treated with suspicion or accorded a 'cold reception' unless you're known there,” says a local businessman who frequents Japan.

The New Vision has since learnt that more Ugandans are on the Japanese Police wanted list of vehicle thieves.

The Ugandans reportedly target the powerful motorbikes commonly known in Kampala as digi.

They mainly go for Honda Bajja and Harley Davidson models (250cc), which cost between sh2m and sh3m in Kampala yet in Japan each is worth about $5000.

The high-powered bikes are said to be cheaper in Kampala because they were snatched from the Japanese.

It is believed the thieves sometimes travel to Japan using forged passports and use fake names to elude the Police.

“At the time of their arrest, the two Ugandans and the Ghanaian are suspected to have stolen over 10 vehicles, mainly the latest models of Toyota Hiace (mini-bus) and Toyota Land Cruiser which are currently very expensive here in Japan,” says a source who spoke on phone from Nagoya.

“The Japanese Police caught them dismantling the vehicles and loading them in containers for shipment to Uganda," says the source.

Reports say the suspects had assembled the stolen vehicles in a yard belonging to a Japanese businessman only identified as Naluse. But Naluse said he was not aware the Ugandans were stealing the vehicles.

The arrests were widely publicised in the Japanese media.
Witnesses say many Japanese flocked the crime scene to see the Ugandans who had been grabbing their cars.

Sources further say while in Japan, the daring Ugandans move at night in search of vehicles and the bikes parked in open yards and compounds, which the Japanese rarely guard.

“Since those places are hardly guarded, the Ugandans jump into the vehicles and drive them to distant places from where they dismantle them,” the sources say.

Aichi prefecture, the main base for export-destined vehicles, is said to be the gangsters' major operational area.

“While at the junk yards, they load the vehicle parts and motorbikes in containers for shipment to Kampala via the Kenyan port of Mombasa,” the source said.

On arrival in Kampala, the racketeers re-assemble the stolen vehicles and put fake DR Congo registration number plates to avoid paying taxes.

Some garages in Ndeeba, Katwe, Bwaise and other suburbs, are highly suspected as the main assembling points for vehicles stolen in Japan.

“That's why today there are many vehicles moving around Kampala with DR Congo number plates,” says the source. The DRC numbers start with HZ or KV.

They pretend the vehicles are from the DRC before they are registered in Uganda.

“Since the stolen Japanese bikes are sold cheaply in Kampala, some people have been flying all the way from London to Kampala just to buy them,” said a source.

“The powerful Honda Bajja and Harley Davidson models, which are very expensive in Europe, are mainly on high demand,” he says.

Last year, the issue of Ugandans stealing vehicles in Japan was raised when a Tokyo delegation visited Kampala.

For long, the Japanese have been complaining about the theft of their vehicles and motorbikes.

Ugandans, Nigerians, Ghanaians and Pakistanis were often named as the prime suspects.

‘The Ugandans use small battery-operated hand-saws to cut the steel chains.

The stolen bikes are then ferried to shipping agents where they are loaded in containers destined for Kampala,” he adds.

Once the stolen vehicles and motorbikes arrive safely in Kampala, the young men sell off the stolen bikes and vehicles for quick bucks.

Those are the Ugandans who purportedly go to Japan for kyeyo.

Ugandans take car theft to new levels

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