Four arrested in illegal vehicle importation

Some garage owners import new vehicles and give them fraudulently acquired old number plates to evade paying taxes to Rwanda Revenue Authority.
The Suspects; (left to right) Hamidah Uwihanganye, Nkundabagenzi Isa, Yahaya Mukundabantu and Hashim Habimana. The New Times / John Mbanda.
The Suspects; (left to right) Hamidah Uwihanganye, Nkundabagenzi Isa, Yahaya Mukundabantu and Hashim Habimana. The New Times / John Mbanda.

Some garage owners import new vehicles and give them fraudulently acquired old number plates to evade paying taxes to Rwanda Revenue Authority.

The racket involves car auctions and garage owners, it has emerged.

RRA and Police recently impounded 11 vehicles out of the 16 listed bearing number plates of vehicles that are no longer in operation.

According to both RRA and Police, the following vehicles are among those which were on the streets with old number plates but were later detected: Toyota Corolla RAA255K, Toyota Land Cruiser RAA496L, Toyota Land cruiser RAA 664B, Toyota Land Cruiser 974w, Toyota Land Cruiser RAA 074J, Minibus Toyota Townace RAA375C, Isuzu Trooper RAA785V and Minibus Toyota Townace RAA415Q.

Reports indicate that many vehicle owners were unaware that the log book registration numbers of their vehicles were not genuine.

The garage owners play a distinct role which includes importing vehicles and giving them old number plates to authenticate local ownership.

Last week, Police nabbed four suspects involved in the scam.

The suspects were trapped after a tip off by a concerned citizen. They were identified as Hamidah Uwihanganye, Issa Nkundabagenzi, Hashim Habimana and Yahayah Mukundabantu.

Uwihanganye is the wife of one Ismail Uwimana, the owner of a garage at Mont Kigali in Nyamirambo. Uwimana is still on the run.

Uwimana’s illegal business, said to be involving a ring of mainly Rwandan and Ugandan nationals, also included modifying chassis numbers to correspond details in the vehicle log book.

Normally, if a vehicle is out of service, the owner is supposed to report and hand all its documents and number plate to RRA for removal from the registry of vehicles still in operation.

ACP Emmanuel Butera, who is in charge of operations and public order at the Rwanda National Police, said there are some people who commit such crimes hoping to elude law-enforcement organs, adding that police, in collaboration with other stakeholders like RRA, will always unearth such criminal actions.

“We are still carrying out investigations to establish whether there are other people who engage in such habbits,” Butera stressed.

Butera advised members of the public to always carry out thorough investigations about vehicles that they would want to buy.

Uwihanganye told officials that her spouse used to sell number plates to other dealers who imported vehicles from neighbouring countries.

This was corroborated by Mukundabantu, Uwimana’s driver, who said that his boss used to buy vehicles from public auctions but, thereafter, he would dismantle them to get old plates or change the bodies to look like the old one.

“He could import vehicles, but never took them to RRA for tax clearance, instead he got a Rwandan number plate and inscribed on them,” Mukundabantu revealed.

Nkundabagenzi and Habimana were allegedly acting as agents who sold the vehicles and other spare parts from Uwimana’s garage.

Robert Mugabe, the director for Revenue Protection Department at RRA, confirmed that the garage at Mont Kigali in Nyamirambo, was a den for this treachery.

The suspect, he explained, would buy old vehicles through public auctions and other ways and dismantle them to sell off spare parts, but retained the number plates for use on his new vehicles.

“His garage was like butchery, he would put the old number plate on right-hand drive cars that illegally entered into the country and then sell them off through his agents,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe added that the suspect would also sell spare parts from dismantled vehicles with the aim of keeping Rwandan number plates for the original cars that were mainly left-hand driven.

Right hand drive cars are banned in the country, but Uwimana allegedly imported them and put them on the streets with old number plates contrary to the laws.

The law requires that once a vehicle is declared un-roadworthy, its number plate is returned to RRA.

In case of a used vehicle, transfer of ownership is required. For a new vehicle, one is required to go through the customs department of RRA before they are issued with a number plate.

Yet the suspects, some of whom confessed the crime, are alleged to have done the contrary and instead kept the number plates under fold.

james.tasamba@newtimes.co.rw

bosco.asiimwe@newtimes.co.rw

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