Kenya’s former Assistant Minister for Internal Security, Mr. Stephen Kipkiyeny Tarus, has been remanded to Luzira Maximum Security Prison in Uganda until January 18, facing potential imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of USD 10,000. He is charged with falsifying Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) documents in connection with an alleged gold deal.
According to court documents, Mr. Tarus was apprehended for presenting forged URA documents, a violation of Section 203 (b) of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004. The charges are related to a suspected gold scam ring, where he is accused of fabricating a receipt of USD 30,000 with URA logos. The receipt was allegedly given to an Indian businessman, identified as Pravine, who was in Uganda to secure space for a medical equipment showroom.
Pravine reportedly released the money after being informed by Mr. Tarus that there were 13 kilograms of gold at URA awaiting clearance. The gold was claimed to have been held at the tax agency for four years. Upon realizing the fraudulent receipt, Pravine engaged URA officials, leading to the arrest of Mr. Tarus by URA’s investigation team.
Mr. Tarus, a 57-year-old who served as an assistant minister during President Mwai Kibaki’s era and as the High Commissioner to Australia from 2009 to 2012, faces charges of gold smuggling, scamming, and forgery of URA documents. Uganda is recognized as a regional hub for illicit gold smuggling, with reports indicating that smuggled gold from neighboring countries, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Kenya, finds its way into international markets through Uganda.
The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime highlights Uganda’s vulnerability to illicit gold trade, facilitated by fraudulent documentation and the region’s insecurity. The United Nations Group of experts identified Uganda as a major transit route for illicit gold to the United Arab Emirates in a 2017 report.