SMUGGLERS control 83% of tobacco (cigarette) business in West Nile, Lt. Patrick Mwesigye, the revenue enforcement officer in Arua, has said.
The illicit trade has greatly affected Uganda Revenue Authority’s (URA) ability to collect taxes since only 17% of the entire tobacco business remains taxable, he added.
The high profits, difficult terrain and porous borders with the DR Congo and Sudan coupled with the thin URA personnel in the area, encourage people to engage in smuggling.
Mwesigye said they increased community sensitisation and enforcement measures in recent months, which have been largely successful.
Over the past three weeks, the tax body enforcement unit intercepted smuggled cigarettes worth sh160m, impounded three trucks and two motorcycles involved in the smuggling and arrested four suspects.
The latest was George Anguyo, who was nabbed at Pakwachi with cartons of cigarette valued at sh55m.
Anguyo was arrested on Saturday while waiting for a bus to take the contraband goods to Kampala.
Mwesigye identified other smuggled goods as motorcycles, petrol and counterfeit drugs. “Illicit trade remains a big threat to the economy because it puts the safety of consumer commodities at stake, leaves local industries unprotected and tempers with collection of data for planning,” he said.