TWO prominent city pastors and a top government official were among the people whose posh cars the Police seized as the crack-down on stolen vehicles wound up yesterday.
Pastor Imelda Namutebi’s luxurious metallic green Toyota Prado, with a customized registration number plate, Psalms 8, and that of Miracle Centre Cathedral Rubaga Pastor Robert Kayanja were seized at Kabira, Bukoto, a Kampala suburb, on Wednesday.
Kayanja’s Toyota Prado, UAF388V, and Namutebi’s were held overnight at Kiira Police Station before transfer to Jinja Road Police Station. Namutebi is the pastor of Liberty Worship Centre, Lugala, near Kampala.
The defence ministry permanent secretary Noble Mayombo’s expensive Toyota Cygnus V8, metallic-brown, was flagged down at Kabira before it was driven to Jinja Road Police station where it is parked.
‘Operation Umoja’, conducted by Interpol and Uganda Police, lasted three days. By press time, the Police were holding 127 vehicles, 52 of them confirmed stolen, CID chief Elizabeth Kutesa said.
The operation is geared towards combating motor-vehicle theft in East Africa. The Police said the recovered vehicles would be shipped to their rightful owners around the world.
“Even though some vehicles may be for top government officials, they will be ferried back to the rightful owners. We have instructed all the divisional Police commanders not to release any stolen vehicles,” Kutesa told a press conference in Kampala yesterday.
Commissioner for Crime Edison Mbiringi attended. Kutesa said, “No matter who owns the vehicle, once it is confirmed stolen, that is the end. No negotiations over that.” She, however, added that the grace period given to owners to collect their vehicles is six months.
Interpol records showed that Mayombo’s car was stolen from Japan on April 26, 2004.
Namutebi’s and Kayanja’s were stolen from Japan on April 23, 2004 and June 5, 2004.
On the first day of the operation that has been conducted in all the other East African countries, the Police recovered 79 posh four-wheel high-powered vehicles.
Kutesa said the majority of the cars were stolen from Japan, the UK and South Africa.
By yesterday afternoon, over 100 vehicles were still parked and tightly guarded at the Jinja Road Police Station. Others were parked at the CPS, Wandegeya, Old Kampala, Katwe, Jinja, Masaka, Mbarara, Mbale and Arua.
Kutesa warned motorists who hid their vehicles not to jubilate yet, saying, “It is the joint operation Umoja that is over. The crack-down on suspected stolen vehicles continues across the country. The earlier they come out and they are cleared, the better. If they don’t, we shall smoke them out.”
She said a special committee would sit last night to plan how to handle the cars still under probe.