People are spending and raising tons of cash from casinos, betting companies and real estate –and that quantified in tax terms should make government happy but it isn’t.
Why? Because most money earned from criminal activities is being washed or laundered into the Ugandan economy through the gambling sector and real-estate businesses, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) has said.
Samuel Wandera, the director International Relations and Strategic Analysis at the FIA – a government agency established to monitor, investigate and curb illicit financial flows, says that according to the Global Financial Intelligence report 2018, globally about 2 to 5 per cent of gross domestic product, GDP, is lost to money laundering activities.
“Using the same GDP estimates, if we apply it to the Ugandan size of the economy, 5 per cent of this or Shs 5 trillion would be lost to money laundering annually within the country,” he says. “These funds would be used to eradicate poverty and improve education and health sectors within the country.”
The FIA has commissioned a study to determine the exact amount of money lost through laundering.
Meanwhile, it was a dream assignment, visiting some of the most alluring casinos and sports betting companies in Kampala, to find out how Uganda is losing or earning money. Entering the casinos for the first time, I noticed there were no rigorous security body checks nor were clients required to register their names and addresses at the point of entry.
And casinos don’t ask their big spending clients for the source of money nor do they follow them after winning cash. Inside, men and women try their luck on the slot machines. As a beginner, I tried my first bet on a video poker game and I lost Shs 2,000.