Ahebwa Michael Mugerwa, a tour operator, has Monday pleaded not guilty to obtaining money by false pretence from American tourists when he allegedly promised to arrange them a good vacation here in Uganda, which he did not fulfill.
While appearing before the Nakawa grade one magistrate, Sheilah Angura, for plea taking, Ahebwa denied the charges before asking Magistrate, to release on bail, on grounds that he has children and aging parents he takes care off.
However, prosecution asked court not release him arguing that they needed to investigate the authenticity of the LC one letter he presented to court.
Court deferred the case to February 11 for ruling on his bail application. The accused was remanded to Luzira prison.
Prosecution contends that four people from the Wendy family, in October, contacted Ahebwa Michael Mugerwa of Mushira travel agencies in Rubaga division for their tour arrangements.
Ahebwa would then receive $17,000 from them for their trip including internal air flights while in Uganda and didn’t fulfill the promise, but instead left them stranded in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
He would later be arrested by the Tourism Police in collaboration with the Uganda Tourism Board after being alerted by the whistle blower.
Ahebwa’s is not the only person to fall victim of UTB’s whip against rogue tour operators in the country, the latest being Didan Atukunda from Mamba Gorilla Safari.
It is reported that a tourist (name withheld) erroneously paid $30,000 instead of $3,000 for a trip to trek Gorillas and he (Atukunda) declined to make the $27,000 refund, which compelled the tourist to contact the Uganda Tourism Board.
He was arrested on Saturday and now at Jinja Police Station awaiting to be presented to Court.
Speaking after today’s Court session, UTB’s Spokesperson, Sandra Natukunda, condemned the act saying it threatens the tourism industry.
“Tourism grows depending on the perception people have about the country. If tourists come to the country and they find out that they are fleeced or they packages they pay for are not fulfilled, then they will shun coming to Uganda,” she said.
She said despite tainting the reputation of the country in the outside world, Uganda will consequently lose millions of money.
UTB has set up a Tourism security committee consisting of Tourism Police, MTWA and representation from the Association of Uganda Tour Operators with the let aim of tactfully handling fraud and any cases reported by tourists.
The tourism industry currently contributes 10 per cent to gross domestic product, making it Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. The industry contributes more than USD 1.4bn (Shs 5.1 trillion) annually and is projected to earn about Shs 10 trillion (USD 2.7bn) by 2020.