The police Criminal Investigations Directorate through the Special Investigations Division (SID) have opened up a General Enquiry File vide reference GEF: 414/2014 against a one Altaf, the proprietor of Ashmin Invest Limited.
This follows a complaint from a whistle-blower pinning the Indian businessman of dealing in deadly chewing tobacco products. The investigations also come on the heels of a recent parliamentary directive that banned the sale and use of deadly smoking and chewing tobacco drugs including kubar and shisha, which have lately been very popular among urban youths.
Kyomukama, the head of the Police Narcotics department, confirmed that they have kick-started fresh investigations into the alleged deadly chewing tobacco products which have flooded the Ugandan markets. He identified some of the deadly products alleged to have been secretly sneaked into the country as; Thamba, Madira, Mirage, Silver Scented Khaini, RMD, Kubar.
Police is moving to make swoops in different places within Kampala and its suburbs, which are suspected to sell these products, with Altaf being listed among the suspected suppliers although investigations to this effect are still ongoing. Some of the targeted sale points include; Pride Supermarket on William Street owned by one Joved, and Pan House on Martin road-Old Kampala, owned by Altaf’s Ashmin Invest Limited, among others.
“Our scope of investigations is not limited to wrangles in the tobacco business. All we want is to phase out these dangerous substances; we also want to find out whether narcotics are not mixed in these products, and that’s all,” Kyomukama said.
He added that as a matter of concern, his department has always organized meetings with other state partners including officials from Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Uganda Revenue Authority, and the Office of the Prime Minister, purposely to forge a way forward on eliminating the fake and deadly tobacco products so as to harmonize this business,” Kyomukama said.
He added that, recently, they got some suspected products and subjected them to laboratory examination at the Government Laboratory following the many complaints got from some whistle blowers. Earlier on, Big Boss Universal proprietor Bansal Abbhey had his chewing tobacco products subjected to tests but he luckily escaped punishment after his products were found to be genuine. Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, recently discovered that Bansal’s Big Boss Universal is officially registered international company, operating in Uganda, and a sole distributor of chewing Tobacco, products.
Commenting on the new investigations, Bansal told Red Pepper that for the last three years, he has been complaining to Police, URA and UNBS over the importation of Miraj, and RMD, which are some of the deadly chewing Tobacco products but little had been done by these concerned authorities to combat the problem.
Come this week, Kyomukama said, they will have got the results from the government analysts which will help them get to the core of the illicit tobaccos. He added that the biggest challenge they have is that some unknown culprits seem to have started duplicating the packaging styles of some of the approved chewing tobacco products, replacing them with fake ones.
“My products are not mouth freshener, they are chewing tobacco, actually I deal in Golden Khaini products and Mijaj, which were all subjected to laboratory tests and the findings clearly indicate they are Narcotic-free. It’s on record that I pay all the taxes for my consignments unlike others who smuggle their products by bus from Mombasa-Kenya, and by sea,” Bansal explained.
Recently, Allan Kyobe Ssempebwa, a URA officer revealed that upon getting several complaints in regard to some individuals that were smuggling suspected deadly tobacco products, they quickly notified the Police Narcotics Department to handle the matter.
In addition, URA’s Commissioner Richard Kamajugo disclosed that they have so far authenticated Big Boss’ products, and more emphasis is now going to be put on suspected deadly tobacco products like; Thamba, Madira, Mirage, Silver Scented Khaini, RMD, and Kubar, among others.
Accordingly, most of these products are being distributed by a clique of people who do not even pay taxes to government. They are mainly smokeless additive tobaccos which are mixed with deadly substances including; Menthol, Lime, and narcotics.
Sources however say that upon getting information that he was being investigated, Altaf allegedly reported himself to Kibuli CIID headquarters and even recorded a statement two weeks ago.
Preliminary investigations show that most of these dangerous products are imported from India and Dubai.
They are stocked in Mombasa-Kenya, from where they are smuggled into Uganda by bus and by sea. Last year reports emerged that a huge consignment (about 120 cartons) of RMD from Banglore-India was impounded while on its way to Uganda on JULY 4, 2014. Sources linked the consignment to Altaf.