Car registration racket exposed

TEN people have been charged with fraudulently issuing car number plates. Among them are three directors of the company that issues number plates in Uganda, two URA officers and a Kampala lawyer.

>The suspects are believed to be part of a highly sophisticated racket, involved in issuing duplicate car number plates to brand new vehicle in a bid to evade taxes.

The fraud also involves forging bank payment forms for car number plates, including personalised plates for expensive cars, especially Land Cruisers and Mercedes Benz.

The security swung into action after a tip-off that saloon cars belonging to a lawyer were found to bear number plates identical to already registered trailers and tractors.

Under the charge sheet, Tebyasa, the importer of the three vehicles, and his clearing agents are accused of conniving with Arnold and Brooklyn Co and the URA officers to get duplicate number plates.

The suspects have been charged with interfering with the customs computerised system and causing financial loss, as well as being in possession of un-customed goods.

If convicted, the suspects could face up to 15 years in jail and the loss caused to the Government could be recovered from them through the sale of their properties. In addition, the fraudulently registered motor vehicles could be forfeited to the state.

According to sources, the arrest and prosecution of the 10 suspects followed a probe by the tax authorities into a well organised racket that had been operating discreetly over more than two years.

The fraud involves issuing duplicate number plates to new vehicles in order to evade import taxes.

Taxes for cars above eight years amount to 73% of the value, insurance and freight cost, whereas cars below eight years attract 53% in taxes.

Sources said hundreds of vehicles in Uganda are now suspected to have duplicate number plates.

Some of the vehicles are believed to be owned by senior government or security officials.

This, sources said, poses a security threat and a huge challenge to the URA registration system. In theory, innocent drivers could be held responsible for accidents caused, or crimes committed, by users of cars with identical number plates.

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