Stephen Tarus: From Kenya assistant minister to Ugandan prison, facing three years in jail
Kenya’s former assistant minister for Internal Security, Stephen Tarus, faces up to three years in prison or a $10,000 fine if found guilty of falsifying documents in an alleged gold deal.
Tarus, who was arraigned on Wednesday at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala presided over by Justice Esther Asiimwe, was remanded in custody at Luzira Maximum Security Prison until January 18.
According to court documents, Tarus was caught with forged Uganda Revenue Authority (URA documents.
He is alleged to have forged a $30,000 receipt bearing the revenue authority’s logo and offered it to an unsuspecting Indian businessman from Mumbai who flew into the country in late December.
The Indian, only identified as Pravine, was in Kampala to secure space for a medical equipment showroom.
He is also said to have secured similar space in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he plans to replicate investments in Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia.
When Pravine arrived in Kampala, he checked into a top hotel, from where the politician is said to have contacted him and informed him that there was 13kg of gold at URA whose demurrage had to be cleared for it to be released. He was told that the consignment had been with the revenue authority for four years.
Pravine, whose close Ugandan confidants were out of town for the Christmas holidays, is said to have released the money and received the forged URA receipt.
After the transaction, the politician and his team disappeared, prompting Pravine to call in URA officials, who issued a red alert on the receipt.
The URA investigation team then tracked down the politician and arrested him last week.
Pravine is said to have flown home and left the case in the hands of a close Kenyan businessman who has invested heavily in oil in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Read:Fake gold, mystery murder … and culprits are still walking free
Tarus, 57, served as assistant minister under the late President Mwai Kibaki, and was the High Commissioner to Australia between 2009 and 2012. He was also a Member of Parliament for Emgwen Constituency between 2003 and 2007.
He is expected to return to court to face charges of gold smuggling, fraud and forgery of URA documents, including a receipt claiming to have paid for transporting the gold in Kampala.
Reports by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime indicate that Uganda is a regional hub for illicit gold smuggled from neighbouring countries, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, South Sudan and smaller flows from Kenya.
“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.
It adds that Uganda is an attractive market for illicit gold because of the ease with which it can be moved and traded due to insecurity in the DRC and South Sudan.
From Uganda, the gold finds its way to international markets, with a 2017 report by the United Nations Group of Experts identifying the country as a major transit route for illicit gold to the United Arab Emirates.