KAMPALA- Police are pursuing at least 15 people suspected of involvement in the Katosi road scam with a view to attach their assets abroad to recover the Shs24b they are accused of stealing, Saturday Monitor has learnt.
The development is a joint operation by the police, Inspector General of Government (IGG) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), working with the foreign governments where some of the suspects come from.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga said police have established who took how much and where the fraudsters invested the stolen money.
Mr Enanga, however, declined to reveal the names or countries of the suspects for fear the move could jeopardise the investigations.
“A joint team made of officers in the DPP and IGG’s offices are working out a procedure under the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty to trace and attach the assets of the suspects abroad,” Mr Enanga said
Mutual Legal Assistance is an agreement between countries to cooperate on issues regarding enforcement of criminal law.
President Museveni on Tuesday ordered that those who stole the Katosi road money should refund it. He made the remarks while addressing leaders from south western and western regions districts.
The investigating team is also considering the option of plea bargain to recover the stolen money. Plea bargain is a justice process where the prosecution and the accused amicably agree for the latter to plead guilty to the alleged offences in return for a lenient sentence.
Mr Enanga said attaching assets of culprits in Uganda would be “an easy sailing” because there are already empowering laws to do that but added that police would need other countries’ support, especially for the accused who are not Ugandan or do not live in Uganda.
He said criminal offences against the suspects are now clear and the prosecution would facilitate the refund of the stolen money.
The spokesperson of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), a government agency in charge of road construction and maintenance, Mr Dan Alinange, said: “For us we are supporting the investigation in every best way we can. To infiltrate a system like ours means there had to be a line of people behind who must all be brought to light.”
He said the number of suspects would grow bigger than 15 as investigations progress.
While meeting local leaders from southwestern and western Uganda at State House on Wednesday, President Museveni ordered that the fraudsters in the Katosi road project must refund the money they stole.
In 2013, Eutaw won the contract for the Katosi road project for Shs165b but it later sub-contracted all the works to CICO, a Chinese company, at Shs155b.
Red flags were raised later after UNRA paid Shs24.7b to Eutaw’s account as aance payment in January this year. The Eutaw company in Mississippi, USA later said it did not know the people who held out as their representatives in the Katosi contract in Uganda.
Eutaw later withdrew from the contract and its directors disappeared without trace, leaving CICO alone on the project.
The UNRA head of corporate Communications, Mr Dan Alinange, said this was in breach of the procurement rules which bar the principal contractor from sub-contracting more than 30 per cent of the work to another party.
CICO commenced preliminary works on the Katosi road but the IGG warned UNRA of a fraudulent contract. The IGG started investigating the matter and last month stopped CICO from proceeding with the project and ordered it to leave the site.
The IGG said there was ample evidence that CICO and Eutaw colluded to defraud the Uganda government.
“The two companies developed a very intimate relationship from which one can safely deduce that they both knew what was going on even before UNRA paid Shs24.7b to Eutaw,” the IGG ruled in her findings.
CICO has since gone to court challenging the decisions of the IGG. A police report last week also cleared CICO of any wrongdoing in the Katosi transaction.
Mr Alinange last week admitted that UNRA was conned in the Katosi project and said they were considering all means possible to recover the stolen money.
He said UNRA did not know CICO as the contractor because they had no contract with the company.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor