By Simon Masaba

KAMPALA, Dec 22 — Uganda Police are probing 20 companies and individuals suspected to be involved in money laundering.

It is feared that up to 56 billion shillings (bout 16.2 million US dollars) could have laundered through the accounts at a local city bank, United Bank of Africa (UBA), using stolen Mastercard payments system cards, details of which the bank authorities declined to divulge.

The police and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) have launched investigations into the shady transactions. It is suspected that the stolen cards could have been used to siphon the money, mainly from the United States.

New Vision has established that the authorities involved in the probe have directed UBA to immediately halt any funds transfers on the accounts in question. Some of the 20 accounts belong to well-known companies in Uganda.

As a result, there have been a series of back and forth communication between the Police, FIA and UBA, regarding the matter.

“In accordance with section 21 (0) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013, UBA is hereby instructed to halt all financial activities on the following accounts, until the origin and purpose of the funds have been authenticated,” an Oct 31 letter from the FIA to UBA reads in part.

The FIA wrote to the bank after discovering that transactions involving the various merchants were suspicious. “We acknowledge receipt of suspicious transaction reports dated Oct 27, 2014 in respect of debit /credit card transactions involving a number of UBA, Point of Sale (POS) merchants,” the letter reads.

It has also emerged that the police have written to the countries where the cards were reportedly stolen from, as part of the probe.

When contacted, Wilbrod Owor, the UBA managing director, confirmed knowledge of the probe, but said the bank receives numerous court orders and they usually comply.

“The bank cannot give specifics because clients’ details remain confidential. The police usually drops court orders in particular cases and we (the bank) adhere to them,” he said.

New Vision has also established that the probe is being conducted by the anti-fraud detectives attached to the Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID).



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