In March, the Uganda Police nabbed 37 Chinese nationals in Uganda that were involved in activity related to cyber-crime. The gang were found disassembling mobile phones and computers in Kireka, on the outskirts of Kampala. A police search at their premises later found suspected stolen computer motherboards, phones, and electricity meters.
The same gang was also in possession of 1,895 Airtel and 223 MTN sim cards which they were using in scam financial transactions.
Recent security operations in the city centre have uncovered a racket of mobile phone theft often linked to violent crime. According to police the recovered phones at places like Mutaasa Kafeero, City Centre Complex, and other such shopping centres in the city are linked to waves of violent crime in the country.
The recovered phones, according to police also helped the security operatives to recover motorcycles in areas of Katwe that were stolen from oftentimes victims that ended up dead. Police say when the phone is stolen, dealers in the city centre change the phone serial numbers and put the phones back on the market. Police say this new trend provides a conduit for the thieves thus encouraging violent crime, burglaries, street robberies, theft of motorcycles, and related murders.
Another area of crime that has baffled security forces in Uganda is crimes emanating from or aided by mobile phones and phone SIM cards. In 2017, following several killings of Ugandans, which crimes remain unresolved to-date, the government swung into action, ordering for mass registration and re-registration of all SIM cards in use. This was because it was discovered that the criminals made use of SIM cards in committing their follies.
Besides murders, criminals have also been involved in scamming unsuspecting Ugandans of their hard-earned money using mobile phones.
In April 2017, the Uganda Communications Commission ordered for fresh registration of all SIM cards in the country. All mobile phone holders were required to re-register using their National Identity Cards, passports for foreigners and certified documents from the Office of the Prime Minister for refugees.
This order followed security concerns that unregistered SIM cards were being used by criminals in the country. Therefore the registration exercise was intended to help law enforcers to identify mobile phone SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for illegal activites, curb incidents such as loss of phone through theft, hate text messages, fraud, inciting violence among other benefits.
It, therefore, is a disturbing scenario when security bursts a criminal gang and found them with thousands of mobile phones.
The country should speak up and call for a thorough investigation of the intention of the Chinese foreigners who are currently held in prison the investigation should also spread to how the Chinese managed to get the phones registered to work in Uganda.
It is difficult enough to have petty Ugandan criminals using SIM cards to commit their crimes, it becomes even more difficult to think that mobile phones are now being used to commit international crimes by foreigners in Uganda.
This writer, Raymond Tamale is a city businessman