Compiled By Markson Omagor
On March 31, this year, a group of robbers accessed a residential home in the city suburb of Kyambogo Lower Estate, Plot 12 Edinburg Avenue in Nakawa Division and held the occupants hostage.
They were dressed in light blue overalls similar to those worn by field workers of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC).
The utility company workers often respond to calls of faulty water pipes and to do repairs, read meters, usually located inside people’s homes, and disconnect defaulters.
One may, therefore, excuse anyone for responding to instructions from ‘people visibly dressed in the company attire’, which the suspected robbers have use to dupe people left in homes to gain access.
In a rare movie-like style, the assailants knocked on the gate of a residence occupied by Chinese businessmen.
Two people emerged from the house, including Yang Da Iyong, a cook and Annet Kyasiimire, a maid, all workers for Zhang Jin Jin, a car dealer operating in Kyambogo.
The workers, unaware of the mission, opened the gate for the robbers. Unaware that they were being recorded on hidden CCTV cameras, the intruders signalled to the workers and pointed in some direction, purportedly looking for the water metre that they assumed they intended to check on its readings.
Immediately, one of the intruders moved from behind and grabbed Yang by the neck with a lot of force and pushed him ahead, giving him no chance to make an alarm.
It was executed very fast and during daytime, when no one expected such a robbery to occur.
The sudden turnaround of things caused extreme fear to the victims.
This style of attack seemed to be new and security experts are still studying it to see if the group is also linked to several other previous robberies in the city and upcountry areas.
The suspects, according to security sources, must have had prior knowledge of the home.
Kyasiimire had been suspected in this conspiracy and was briefly arrested by security during their investigations, but she was later released without a charge.
Inside the residence, the suspects demanded cash. They put the workers on a ‘deadly’ knifepoint and during the course, they were able to access sh85m and $4,500.
How they were nabbed
A few days after the robbery, the Chinese released a short video of the incident, which shocked the nation.
Many who saw it trending on social media doubted whether the incident really occurred in Uganda.
It was not until the police came up with a statement confirming that the people seen in the footage were not actors but actual robbers and were being sought as suspects in a robbery in Kyambogo, that people realised it was real.
The Crime Investigations Unit asked for the full video and finally zeroed in on one of the intruders, who was later identified as Elizabeth Kiiza, 32, aka Judith Mbabazi or Liz Kiiza Kamara.
She was recognised to be a resident of Lungujja-Kitunzi in Rubaga Division, Kampala.
The experts took a careful scrutiny of the footage and a combination of other security techniques to zero on her, which was a big breakthrough in their investigations.
Several attempts were made to get her at home, but were unsuccessful.
She was later traced in Ntungamo, western Uganda, supervising a construction site at her mother’s home.
She was finally nabbed and investigators drove her back to Kampala up to her home in Lungujja.
A full search of her house was conducted and a lot of vital leads were recovered.
She was also subjected to vigorous interrogation, which compelled her to confess to the crime.
It was through the interrogations that the investigators established that Mbabazi was a habitual offender.
She used the name Kiiza to travel to China, where she obtained a job.
But in the process, she allegedly committed some offences and her passport was confiscated by her employers. She was consequently deported, but she never settled.
She acquired other documents in the name of Judith Mbabazi and continued with her ‘trade’.
The investigators used Mbabazi as a vital point of reference since she confessed and offered to lead them to many of her accomplices, which finally dismantled the group.
During a weekly media briefing recently, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said that Mbabazi revealed all her accomplices in the Kyambogo robbery.
The investigators learnt from her confessions that the group, using their contacts and links, had organised another robbery in DR Congo.
According to Enanga, upon receiving the information, the police stormed a guesthouse in Bundibugyo, rounding them all in a surprise move.
They had hired a Toyota Premio from Uganda. The police arrested five of the suspects and on searching their rooms, they recovered a number of house-breaking implements, which they intended to use while in DR Congo.
The police also impounded and confiscated their cellphones, thereby cutting off their communications.
The police experts then analysed information in their phones, where they accessed all their previous communications, which revealed that the group belonged to a big racket, with contacts in South Sudan, Kenya and DR Congo.
It was also established that they keep recruiting new members for particular missions and after sharing with them the loot, some are dropped.
Three of the suspects arrested from Bundibugyo, it was established, had taken part in the Kyambogo robbery, which forced the investigators to revisit the CCTV footage, which, after close analysis, confirmed their participation.
Those arrested from the guesthouse included Edson Musinguzi, 35, a resident of Nansana-Ganda in Wakiso district, who was a key player in the Kyambogo mission, Wilson Kalyango, 46, a Ugandan of Tanzanian origin and a resident of Mengo-Musajjalumbwa in Kampala Central Division.
He is said to be an expert in housebreaking using all types of tools and a reliable player in the group, who was mainly recruited to execute such tasks.
Sastin Kamuzo, 40, a resident of Kasese district, had provided vital information about their robbery missions in DR Congo.
He had allegedly also secured links in DR Congo. Others were Joseph Mperese, 46, a resident of Kiti-Buwambo in Kira Municipality, who was the driver of the Toyota Premio that the suspects used to travel to Bundibugyo and planned to cross the border to DR Congo.
Dan Muwoza, 45, alias Muko, a resident of Mpererwe-Kanyanya.
Musinguzi, Muwoza and Mbabazi entered the residence in Kyambogo and were identified clearly on CCTV cameras.
Through further interrogations, the investigators learnt that several other accomplices in the Kyambogo robbery mission were still at large and knew they still had a big mission to accomplish.
Brig. Chris Ddamulira Sserunjogi, the director Crime Intelligence, when contacted said their mission was to completely bust the racket and much effort was put to reach everywhere, following confessions of those arrested.
They followed the leads and finally arrested Gerald Kalyamaggwa, also known as Mzeei, in the group.
They learnt that Kalyamaggwa, a known figure in the busy Kikuubo business hub in downtown Kampala, was a vital contact, who often found quick market for their loots.
He told the operatives during cross-examination that the group had planned another robbery on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at a distribution store known as Falkan Investments Limited, distributors of Unilever products at Muganzirwazza Building in Katwe, Kampala.
They targeted an estimated sh600m from a safe inside the store. However, on their first attempt, the group was not well -equipped and failed to access the safe, which was found to be metallic.
However, they robbed a few items, including two television sets, computers and an extension cable.
They planned a fresh attack and this time, they procured superior housebreaking implements and portable melting gas cylinders.
Kalyamaggwa continued communicating to his group while in the hands of operatives without revealing to them that he had been apprehended.
They sounded so happy and convinced that this time round, they would execute the deal.
They also discussed at length how they were going to execute their mission and share a big loot.
They were also supposed to embark on several other similar missions in the pipeline.
It was established that the robbers use master keys and other superior housebreaking tools.
They often identify places to rob and strike deals with security guards, housemaids, drivers, sweepers and cleaners, utility workers and relatives in a home.
Kalyamaggwa, a resident of Busaabala, led to the arrest of several accomplices in the ‘pending’ mission at the distribution store, who had actually participated in the previous burglary.
Those arrested for this mission included Marvin Kivumbi, a former worker of the company, whose contract had been terminated.
He is the one who gave them vital information. He was supposed to be part of the attack and would quickly lead them to where the money was being kept.
He assured them that the safe contained over sh600m that the company allegedly collects from agents.
Kivumbi helped the investigators to apprehend other accomplices, who included Mustafa Ssembuusi and Dan Odong.
It is Ssembuusi who constantly called on Kalyamaggwa’s cellphone while in detention, asking him for updates on their mission.
With the help of CCTV footage, which the investigators retrieved, they were able to identify the suspects in other robbery missions, which they are still analysing and bringing together to adduce more evidence against them.
Several exhibits were also recovered from the homes of the suspects, including National Water and Sewerage Corporation uniforms used in the Kyambogo robbery.
Robberies in Kenya, Ibanda
In March this year, some members of the group travelled to Kenya, where they worked with local contacts there and robbed a financial institution.
The group used Mbabazi, who disguised as a business mogul from Uganda on a big business trip and befriended a security guard at an M-Pesa company.
She quickly accepted a relationship with the guard, who became excited, but during the interaction, she served him with drinks and eats that had been drugged and he fell asleep, enabling the robbers to access an unspecified amount of cash and returned to Uganda.
The group is also linked to several other robberies in Uganda, including one in Ibanda, where they robbed sh50m from a beer depot.
At some point, their confessions suggest they have previously been involved in armed robberies.
The latest suspect to be apprehended was Fred Kazibwe, alias Kali-smart, one of the masterminds of several of the missions, who had eluded arrest for some time.
According to sources, Kazibwe, a resident of Maya along Masaka road in Wakiso district, was the mastermind of the Kyambogo robbery.
He was arrested on Tuesday from his home, where he was said to be supervising the completion of his newly built mansion.
It is alleged that on seeing the Kyambogo video trending on social media, Kazibwe allegedly switched off his phone and stopped appearing in public places, given the fact that he was a known habitual offender.
They, nevertheless, tracked him down in Maya. They were, however, mesmerized when Kazibwe, after realizing that he had no way of escape, gained courage and questioned the operatives from the Crime Intelligence of their mandate to arrest him.
He allegedly questioned the origin of their orders, claiming he was above ‘arrest’.
Kazibwe told the operatives after he was forcefully grabbed that he was well-known in almost all security circles and that nobody was supposed to arrest him.
He, nonetheless, gave in after he was overwhelmed, but insisted that he would still get out soon.
It is alleged that Kazibwe is connected to several robberies, including banks, where they target metallic money safes and use gas cylinders to melt them.
The investigators have also obtained background information about Musinguzi, who they said has another case of murder in Mukono, which is registered on CRB265/2021, where he was captured on CCTV committing a murder involving kidnap.
The investigators are also still following links that many of the machete-wielding suspects who were arrested in the previous years served between six months and one year in prison and were released.
These are suspected to be regrouping with some change in their tactics.
Security personnel suspect that the robbers that attacked the late archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwang’s home were among the group, but are still at large.
Enanga says the asset and recovery team at the Criminal Investigations Directorate in Kibuli, Kampala were still tracing some of the suspects’ assets that were acquired in a short period through robberies.
He revealed that from the information gathered from the suspects, it was established that the burglaries were well planned and involved a lot of conspiracy, including internal dealings.
He warned the public against impostors, who disguise as utility workers and gain access to people’s homes, where they collect vital information used in planning robberies.
He said the robbers had devised new techniques and creative ways of accessing homes, including those in fences, during the day.
He suggested that whoever is approached by people seeking to gain access to a home should first call the utility company offices using official numbers to confirm their presence in the area before allowing anyone in.
Suspects appear in court
On April 28, the suspects appeared before Nakawa Grade One magistrate Irene Okello and were charged with aggravated robbery.
These included Edison Musinguzi, a resident of Kisigara Cell, Kijojobwa parish in Kyegegwa, Judith Mbabazi, Dan Buwoza, Joseph Mperese, Sastin Kamuzu and Wilson Kalyango, She remanded the men to Kitalya prison, while Mbabazi was sent to Kigo female prison till May 13.
The magistrate told the accused persons that they could only apply for bail in the High Court or after six months if prosecution fails to adduce evidence pinning them.