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URA Breaks Smart Phone Smugglers' Racket At Entebbe Airport :: Uganda Radionetwork

URA Breaks Smart Phone Smugglers' Racket At Entebbe Airport

The intelligence-led operations by Uganda Revenue Authority discovered diverse methods of concealing the smuggled items, from specially designed dresses to using trash cans.
She stuffed the phones in her backside
A total of 1,297 high-end smartphones have need recovered from suspected smugglers in two operations at Entebbe International Airport over the last two weeks. Several suspects were arrested including travelers and a worker at the airport.

Uganda Revenue Authority levies taxes on imported phones brought into Uganda accompanied by a passenger.

The taxes are computed based on the value of the type of smart phone one ins carrying through the customs. Low-end phones valued at $20 dollars or less exempt. But ideally imported phone accompanied a traveling passenger are subject to a 10 import duty, 6% Withholding tax, 18% value added tax and an infrastructure levy of 1.5%. Some Ugandan and foreigners traveling through Entebbe International Airport  had found ways of going through customs and immigration without paying the taxes. 

The intelligence-led operations by Uganda Revenue Authority discovered diverse methods of concealing the smuggled items, from specially designed dresses to using trash cans.

Intelligence personnel get tips ranging from strange clothes worn by a traveler to how someone is walking and how many pieces of cloth one is wearing, irrespective of the prevailing weather conditions.

In the latest case earlier this week, an officer conducting a spot check on a cleaner's bucket, which the cleaner had claimed contained cleaning detergents, was shocked to find 64 pieces of assorted used Samsung phones instead.

In another instance, an officer noticed a passenger "walking majestically with what seemed to be an oddly shaped behind," the source said.

And this prompted a physical check, revealing 16 pieces of assorted phones.

Later on the same day in the evening, a female enforcement officer noticed a small group coming through, scanning their bags. "One of them—a familiar face—appeared to be wearing more clothes than usual on such a hot day," she said.

The officer noticed his "unusual clothing and behavior," leading to a search due to his visible discomfort and the way he was breathing and sweating.

The suspicion led to conducting a thorough check, which revealed that under the normal pair of trousers was another pair of "custom-made" trousers fitted with several pockets.

It was in these pockets that the passenger had ingeniously hidden 20 pieces of assorted iPhones and Samsung phones.

Another man had stuffed phones in the front of his trousers, and the bulge led to the team to do a body search, revealing 18 pieces of assorted iPhones. In total, 781 pieces of smartphones were seized; offense management is underway.

A week before, the URA team had also conducted an operation at the airport and recovered 516 pieces of phones of different makes.

"Using profiling techniques and technology, several phones were found to be skillfully concealed within other items like phone accessories, clothing, flowers, shoes, electronic devices, and motor vehicle spares," according to the officials who conducted the search.

In one incident, a seemingly compliant passenger at customs, dressed in a sharia, politely declared her merchandise, paid taxes, and prepared to exit. 

Unfortunately for her, an Enforcement officer noticed she had changed into leggings and a t-shirt afterwards. 

They also noticed that her trolley carried more items than reported, including two carry-on bags and a bag of dirty clothes, allegedly ones she had used while in Dubai. 

The officer made a fresh inspection of her and the bags, uncovering 53 smartphones hidden within the clothing.

In another incident, a man attempted to smuggle phones in his calf-length socks, but enforcement officers noticed he was struggling to walk comfortably, and at one time he tipped but was helped by a friend from falling.

On searching him, 17 smartphones were recovered.

A suspected foreign national posing as an elderly investors in Uganda was also set aside and sent for thorough body checks, following a suspicious bulge on his backside.The search produced 14 pieces of phones concealed in his jacket and pants.

In total, 516 pieces of smartphones estimated to be worth 20,500 dollars (about 76 million shillings) were seized and offense management is ongoing.

Upon verification,  at least 130 pieces were used Aquos, Docomo and Oppo Smart Phones while 119 were of the Samsung Galaxy A05 New Smart type.

Other types were iPhone, Kyocera, Phantom, Vivo Tecno and other Samsung Galaxy series, mainly refurbished ones.

These cases were only at Entebbe Airport, but officials say phones are being smuggled into the country across the many entry points.