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Hundreds conned in Iraq recruitment

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th September 2008 03:00 AM

AT LEAST 100 people are conned of their money in dubious Iraq recruitment deals in Kampala every month, Saturday Vision investigations reveal.

AT LEAST 100 people are conned of their money in dubious Iraq recruitment deals in Kampala every month, Saturday Vision investigations reveal.

By Chris Kiwawulo

AT LEAST 100 people are conned of their money in dubious Iraq recruitment deals in Kampala every month, Saturday Vision investigations reveal.

Potential recruits pay up to sh1,000,000 each, some even more, with the hope that one day they would fly to Iraq and make money as security guards. But their dreams are never fulfilled. Why? They pay the money to conmen.

Intriguingly, most conmen use names of companies that are involved in taking Ugandans to Iraq to confuse their victims.

Some others use names of registered companies that have never taken anyone to Iraq, which raises suspicion on whether they are really involved or not.

The companies that are currently renown for exporting labour to Iraq are; Watertight, Askar, Dreshak and Gideon’s Men/Connect Finance.

The proprietors of these companies confirm that many people

have come to their offices after they have been conned but deny any links with the conmen.

“Many people keep coming to our offices claiming that they have paid money to ‘our employees’ to be taken to Iraq. But we do not know the people they give the money,” explains Moses Matsiko, the proprietor of the Bugolobi-based Watertight.

Combined, the four active companies have taken over 12,000 Ugandans to Iraq since 2005. Askar, the company that pioneered exportation of labour to Iraq in 2005 has so far taken over 5,000 people. Watertight has taken over 1,200, Dreshak over 4,000 and Gideon’s Men/Connect Finance about 800.

When contacted, these companies explained that apart from medical and training fees, which some companies deduct after the recruits’ first salary there are no other charges.

Kampala Extra Police spokesperson Simeo Nsubuga has on several occasions warned the public against conmen who are on the loose in the city, saying they should take extra care. The Police have arrested and paraded several conmen, but still, people get conned!

The conmen, many of whom use the names of registered companies, take advantage of the potential recruits by showing them registration certificates, which are believed to be forged.

Jacob Bamutyenda, a resident of Kawempe was conned of his hard-earned sh600,000 by a man he only identified as James on William Street. James had reportedly promised Bamutyenda a job in Iraq.

Bamutyenda says that the smartly dressed trickster gave him several cell phone numbers that he would use to contact him and a room number on the second floor of Kalungi Plaza.

“He was ever smart and I thought he was genuine. But every time I would call him, I would meet him on the steps going out of the building.

“He would tell me he was going to meet the people who coordinate the flights. When he took my money, all the phones went off and on visiting the room he had told me, I found it was a saloon,” Bamutyenda narrates.

It is because of such conmen’s tricks that the companies genuinely dealing in exportation of labour to Iraq are appealing to the authorities to intervene lest their businesses are spoilt.

Some are of the view that firms that do not have contracts should cease to hold licenses.

The active companies submit an evaluation report on a monthly basis to the labour ministry and their licenses are renewable after every two years.

Alok Dheer, the managing director of Dreshak also reports that several people have gone to their offices after being conned by unscrupulous people.

“In many cases, we work with Police to arrest these conmen and we are committed to fight that vice.”

The active firms say that companies that are not exporting labour should not have licenses, arguing that many unscrupulous people hide under their names to fleece people.

The labour and gender ministry’s senior labour officer in charge of external employment, Milton Turyasiima also confirms that there are unscrupulous people who con unsuspecting members of the public in the name of taking them to Iraq.

But Turyasiima is quick to add that it is difficult to tell whether the inactive companies are the ones involved since there is no proof.

“Some wrong characters outside the companies could be the ones using the registered companies’ names to fleece people. Any person can say they are from such and such a company and they defraud people,” he points out.

After every two years, Turyasiima notes, the ministry renews all licenses of companies that prove active to the satisfactory standards.

“Initially, there were about 20 companies but now we have 15 with licenses. Of these, however, about seven are active in exporting labour,” he explains.

Asked why those eight companies that are not exporting labour still have a license, Turyasiima says: “Getting a contract is not an easy thing. You can take sometime looking for a contract. So, we let these companies hold the licenses for sometime but we do not renew it after two years elapse when they have not taken anybody.”

He cites Job Potential and Property Markets, Maltino and Millenium companies whose licenses were not renewed because they did not have contracts to export labour for two years.

Apart from Iraq, some of the companies export labour to the United Arab Emirates and Juba, citing Detail Security and Nile Two firms.

Besides conning of potential recruits, some companies do not take their recruits for shooting practice while others do not mind about education levels.

According to Dheer (the Dreshak boss), “we recruit ex-soldiers who have gun handling experience. Therefore there is no need to take them for shooting.” But Kayonga and Matsiko say they are keen on taking recruits through shooting practice.

Sources revealed that some of these companies are avoiding the costs of ammunition used in shooting. Each round of ammunition costs sh807 and each of the recruits shoots between 80 to 100 rounds of ammunition. This implies that the company spends about sh80,000 on a single recruit.

Attempts to ask the recruits to pay this money resulted into conflicts and branding the issue a money-minting project by the recruiting companies, explains Matsiko.

On the education level, Dheer says they recruit anybody as long as they can speak English. Kayonga and Matsiko on the other hand say they only recruit only people with senior six qualifications and above.

“We even take trouble to verify their papers with their schools to avoid forgeries,” says Matsiko.

But Turyasiima says that the labour ministry does not have control over the level of education required and setting of the salary scales.

“We cannot determine how much people will be given. We only ensure that the company abides by the labour requirements and the contract that the recruited person has signed with them,” he notes.

Hundreds conned in Iraq recruitment

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