Ugandan authorities have detained Stephen Tarus, a former Assistant Minister for Internal Security in Kenya during the Kibaki era, on charges of smuggling 13 kilograms of gold into Uganda using forged documents. Tarus was arrested last week and appeared before a Ugandan anti-corruption court on Wednesday, where he was remanded in Luzira prison until January 18 for further investigations. The charges against Tarus include gold smuggling, fraud, and forgery of Uganda Revenue Authority documents.

Tarus, 57, is accused of being involved in a gold smuggling ring with connections to Kampala and falsifying export documents. The alleged forged documents include a receipt claiming a $30,000 payment in Kampala for the transportation of the gold. The value of the 13 kilograms of gold is estimated at Sh134 million ($845,821).

A former Member of Parliament for Emgwen constituency and Kenya’s high commissioner to Australia from 2009 to 2012, Tarus served as an assistant minister under President Mwai Kibaki.

According to reports by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, Uganda serves as a regional hub for illicit gold smuggled from neighboring countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and smaller flows from Kenya. Once in Uganda, traders often falsely claim that the gold is of Ugandan origin, supported by fraudulent documentation. Uganda’s insecure neighboring regions, such as the DRC and South Sudan, contribute to the attractiveness of the country as a market for illicit gold, making it easier to move and trade.

A 2017 report by the United Nations Group of Experts identified Uganda as a significant transit route for illicit gold bound for international markets, particularly the United Arab Emirates.

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