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URA Destroys Illicit Cigarettes Worth Shs 1.2 Billion

Destroyed: Some of the seized illicit cigarettes destroyed yesterday

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has this afternoon in partnership with Luweero Industries destroyed illicit cigarettes worth Shs 1. 2 billion.

The consignment, loaded in three trucks included illicit, banned and chewing tobacco (393099 cartons) worth US$ 340, 000, an equivalent of about Shs 1.2 billion. These were seized in enforcement operations in eight months along Uganda’s borders with DR Congo, South Sudan and in the East.

Speaking during the destruction exercise at a facility belonging to Luweero Industries in Nakasongola, Commissioner Customs, Abel Kagumire, who represented the Commissioner General John Musinguzi, he said the exercise ties with the Authority’s core values of Patriotism, Integrity and Professionalism and that destruction is in line with the Tobacco Control Act, 2015 which gives the taxman the mandate to protect the market.

“In whatever we do, we try to see that we consider all the three. We are trying to pursue the three but mainly patriotism. We have illicit and genuine cigarettes. They are all cigarettes. Illicit means that they have not paid taxes. They are prohibited. They are not allowed on Ugandan market. Our role is to see how to get it out of our market. We have genuine manufacturers of these cigarettes who produce and pay income tax, pay you all the taxes and they have the market but again they cannot sell because of the infiltration of these illicit cigarettes,” Kagumire said adding, “URA maintains a stand to non-tolerance to smuggling. So, we normally carry out these sweeping operations around the country.”

According to Kagumire, in the past three years, local manufacturers BAT (British American Tobacco) and Leaf Tobacco paid Shs 271 billion and Shs 83 billion respectively.

“If they (smugglers) eat into their market, government would lose all these money. And we don’t know where this money (from sale of illicit goods) goes after they sell illicit products,” Kagumire said.

Kagumire says that destroying the seized products instills confidence in the public, discourages smuggling, enlightens the public about the dangers of banned products and protects genuine traders.

Kagumire notes that the trade is executed by syndicated schemes of experienced smugglers.

“They have money and can bribe everyone to penetrate these market. Our officers go and do the noble duty. They (smugglers) try to entice them. They try to corrupt them, to compromise them but they refuse. So, when we come here to burn what seized products, it energizes them. They get encouraged but if they hear the Commissioner sold them or that the cigarettes were stolen, they lose morale because we know what they go through. This is our effort to pull our own (genuine manufacturers/taxpayers) up. It shows those that will continue in smuggling that illicit trade is punishable. We hope that this will radically change illicit trade,” Kagumire said as a chained-road equipment ran over the seized goods.

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