A few days ago, Vera Akech was a free woman. She was a kids’ caretaker at a school in Kitgum, Northern Uganda. That was before she crossed paths with “criminals”.
Currently, she is detained awaiting possession of prohibited goods charges.
Akech’s troubles started on January 22, 2018 when she allegedly attempted to sell three tusks of Ivory.
She was netted by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Enforcement teams based at Corner Kamdini and Karuma check point teams following a tip-off.
The sale of Ivory is banned internationally. It is listed on the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
A meeting to plan how to execute the mission was convened. It was agreed that one team member would arrest the suspects while another went undercover taking on the persona of ‘Jefferson Olindi’, an Ivory dealer.
Before Akech was arrested, the ‘tools of trade’-vehicles, plain clothed security personnel and Olindi-the buyer, were assembled.
In a vehicle without URA logos, the team set off for Kitgum, Northern Uganda where the seller awaited them.
“Olindi” had travelled earlier to meet the seller, who it later emerged, was a woman. Smelling a rat, Akech took “Olindi” on a “tour” of Kitgum district. Realising her trickery, one of the officers followed the vehicle in which Akech and “Olindi” traveled.
Moments later, following assurance by “Olindi”, the vehicle halted at a secluded spot in Oryang Ojuma where the transaction would occur.
There, “Olindi” was taken to a thicket where he beamed upon seeing the ‘goods’.
Soon, one of the security personnel signaled to colleagues that the exchange was ongoing as “Olindi’’ made a part payment to Akech.
No sooner had she began to count the money, than she was surrounded. Realizing that she was in trouble, Akech took to her heals but could not outrun the URA enforcement team.
On searching the thicket, three pieces of ivory weighing nine kilograms were recovered. URA says a kilogram of ivory goes for US$1,000 on black market. This implies that she was found in possession of ivory worth US$9,000 (UShs32m).
Akech is assisting with investigation. According to her statement, she got the Ivory from criminals said to be based in Kidepo, North Eastern Uganda. There is a National Park in Kidepo.
According to the URA Spokesperson, Vincent Seruma, a file regarding the matter was sanctioned awaiting court allocation. Akech will face charges of possession of prohibited items under the East African Community Customs Management Act. She was on Monday remanded to Luzira prison by Grade One Magistrate Pamela Lamunu. She will appear again in the same Court on Thursday for plea taking.
The incident was the second in a month. Earlier, the same URA teams impounded two tusks of Ivory. URA has severally thwarted the sale, importation and exportation of Ivory at borders including Entebbe International Airport.