The Ugandan Office of Government Spokesperson and the Police have clashed over a currency saga that has engulfed the country, threatening to erode investor confidence and dampen economic prospects.
The saga regards the mystery surrounding a consignment believed to have consisted newly printed bank notes, which disappeared the moment a chartered plane that transported the money from Europe where it was printed, touched down.
Five days ago, a security raid saw several officers arrested following a tip-off from the country’s central bank, Bank of Uganda, concerning undeclared extra cargo that came on the chartered plane.
The officials arrested included those from the Bank of Uganda, the Customs Department, airport police officers and Civil Aviation Authority employees.
In a news conference earlier this week, the country’s police spokesperson confirmed what had been a rumour for days, that the extra cargo was indeed money which was printed outside the lot that had been ordered for by the bank.
The police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, said that as part of the investigation, police had raided the homes of six senior bank officials and recovered the documents which suggest printing of unauthorised excess currency notes.
“The searches were done in the homes of the officials and a number of documents were recovered. With time, we shall get how much was involved, how much (money) has been recovered, what was genuine (currency), [and] what was unofficial, but genuine money,” Enanga said.
Enanga said the officials were still in police detention as investigations continued.
However, the Ugandan government Spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, on Wednesday dismissed the police statements about the printing of extra currency notes as “absolute lies”.
“We have seen an absurd statement being attributed to police spokesperson (Fred) Enanga on the ongoing BoU saga. We do not know where he got this information from that they are investigating printing of extra cash.
“I want to disregard his statement. The ongoing investigation has got nothing to do with printed extra money that was purportedly dumped in our economy,” a charged Opondo is quoted by Uganda’s Daily Monitor as saying at a news conference.
He accused the police publicist of telling lies and said the government had instructed the Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola, to “deal with his people” and recall the statement that was issued by Enanga because it was “misleading.”
But police has not withdrawn its statement.
According official accounts, the chartered cargo plane carried to Uganda commodities packaged in some 25 pallets, and 20 of them were confirmed to have contained the money that is said to have been printed from France.
The contention comes from the extra five pallets which police say the evidence they have points to the fact that these contained cash that was printed outside the order by the central bank.
Early reports indicated that mysterious cash amounted to 90 billion Ugandan Shillings (about Rwf22 billion).
Opondo, however, dismissed this saying that the extra five pallets carried other unspecified merchandise.
Economists have warned of a devastating impact the irregular introduction of currency notes into the country is likely to have on the economy.