Luwero – In a bid to reduce trade in illicit cigarettes, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) on Friday, March 18, destroyed cigarettes worth UGX1.2b from Luwero Industries Limited in Nakasongola district.
Speaking at the function preceding the destruction of the cigarettes, Abel Kagumire the Commissioner Customs at URA said that the rationale for destroying the cigarettes was to protect the market from illicit goods and protect taxpayers and the public since some of them participate in the business unknowingly. And also to restore public confidence in the Authority’s fight against illicit goods.
The 293,099 cartons destroyed cigarettes worth UGX1.2b were impounded during an eight-month (July 2021-Feb 2022) operation. 90% of the impounded cigarettes were super match brand that is being counterfeited the most according to the Commissioner customs.
On how to detect illicit cigarettes, Kagumire had this to say: “If you find any cigarette in a without URA tax stamp, that is automatically an illicit good. If you find no UNBS or Kenya standards mark KEBS that is automatically illicit. Illicit means they have not paid taxes and they are not allowed on the Ugandan market,” he said.
He also stated that URA maintains a strong stance of non-tolerance to smuggling in the country with the most prone areas being the border points in eastern, western and northern Uganda.
He further stated that if traders and buyers find no visible health warnings on the cigarette packs it also means that it is illicit.
Prohibited goods mean that they are banned from entering the country and it is not only cigarettes; others include used computers, refrigerators, lead batteries among others.
According to URA, such actions are done to protect the industry players that pay revenue to the government against unfair competition from illicit traders that don’t pay taxes
British American Tobacco (BAT) and LTC have made a joint revenue collection of UGX275.123 between 2019 and 2021 according to the Authority.
Kagumire noted that illicit trade is a syndicated scheme of experienced smugglers who have a lot of money to bribe anyone who stands in their way right from the point of origin of the goods to their final destination. However he said that their officers are ethical enough and reject the bribes due to URA’s core values of patriotism, integrity and professionalism, to protect the market from such illicit goods.
He also lauded Luwero Industries Limited for accepting to help the Authority dispose of the cigarettes, and he said that they have more in their warehouse that are still awaiting court ruling.
Lt. Col. Richard Nkwasiibwe, the manager human resource and administration who represented the General Manager of Luwero Industries at the function said that the company has the capacity to dispose of tonnes of wastes in an environmentally friendly manner and that they look forward to work hand in hand with URA in the fight against illicit goods in the market. Julius Nkwasire Mpomoka, the Assistant Commissioner Enforcement at URA who was also present at the function, in his speech said that illicit trade kills the economy since it does not contribute any revenue in form of taxes to the country’s economic development.