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Stephen Kipkiyeny: Ex-Kenyan minister remanded in Uganda over fake gold deal

Stephen Kipkiyenyi Tarus, Kenya’s former Assistant minister for Internal Security appearing in the dock at the Ugandan Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on January 10, 2024

Kampala, (UG): The Anti-Corruption court in Kampala, Uganda’s Capital has charged and remanded to Luzira Maximum Prison, Mr Stephen Kipkiyeny Tarus a former assistant Minister of Internal Security in the Kenyan Government over falsification of tax documents and an alleged involvement in a fake gold deal.

Tarus, 57, who now faces up to three years in jail or a fine of USD 10,000, if found guilty of falsifying documents in an alleged gold deal was arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court on Wednesday, January 10, and the presiding charge refusing to take his plea remanded him to Luzira until January 18, 2024.

State prosecution contends that Tarus was caught with falsified tax documents of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), contrary to Section 203 (b) of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004 (as amended).

The accused is said to have forged a receipt of 30,000 bearing URA logos and tendered it to an unsuspecting Indian businessman from Mumbai who had jetted into the country towards the end of December.

How Tarus frauded the Indian businessman

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The victim, an Indian national only identified as Pravine, reportedly met Tarus when he had come to Kampala to secure space for a showroom for medical equipment with plans to expand his investments from Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia to Uganda and Goma in DR Congo.

On his arrival in the Ugandan capital, Pravine met with the politician at a top hotel and the former Kenyan minister reportedly informed him that there were 13 kilograms of gold at URA whose demurrage needed to be cleared for it to be released.

The businessman was told that the consignment had been at the tax agency for four years, and he (the Indian) expressly released the money and was given the URA fake receipt by the politician.

After the transaction, reports indicate that Mr Tarus and his team disappeared, prompting Pravine to engage URA officials, who red-lighted the receipt.

The politician was tracked by URA’s investigation team and arrested last week, until Wednesday, January 10th when he appeared before court.

Although the Indian returned home to his native country, he entrusted the case to a close Kenyan businessman who is heavily invested in petroleum in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Ibrahim Bossa, the spokesperson of Uganda’s tax body – URA when contacted declined giving further details on the case and said the revenue collecting body will release a statement soon on how the fraudulent politician was nabbed and charged.

Stephen Kipkiyeny Tarus served as assistant minister during the late President Mwai Kibaki’s era and as High Commissioner to Australia between 2009 and 2012. He was also Member of Parliament for Emgwen Constituency between 2003 and 2007.

The 57-year-old politician will return to court next week on January 18th to face charges of gold smuggling, scamming and forgery of URA’s documents including a receipt claiming to have paid for the movement of the gold in Kampala.

Gold scam in Uganda?

A recent report by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime indicates that Uganda is a regional hub for illicit gold smuggled from neighbouring countries primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and smaller flows from Kenya.

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“Once the smuggled gold arrives in Uganda, dealers claim it is of Ugandan origin, supported by fraudulent documentation which the authorities find difficult to disprove,” the report says, adding that Uganda provides an attractive market for illicit gold owing to the ease at which it can be moved and traded courtesy of the insecurity in DRC and South Sudan.

From Uganda, the gold finds its way into international markets marking the country as a major transit route for the illicit gold to the United Arab Emirates.

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