Uganda Police in Kampala have arrested two senior employees of used car importing company, Be Forward Uganda Ltd, on allegations of fraud.
The two suspects, Caroline Nampeera and Annet Nagawa were detained at Jinja Police Station and face charges relating to obtaining money by false pretense and economic fraud.
They are expected in court early next week.
Their arrest followed a class-action case lodged at the police station by dozens of customers who claim to have lost tens of thousands of dollars to the company and it’s subsidiaries.
The claimants allege to have paid fully or partially for vehicles ordered on the Be Forward website, only for the money to vanish in thin air.
Upon placing their orders on the Tokyo based company’s main website, they say, they were told to make payments and get invoices from the Be Forward agent companies in Uganda, namely; Be Forward Uganda Ltd, Nagoya Company Ltd or Steel Logistics Ltd.
The three sister companies are reportedly co-owned by one Henry Nkeera, Bernard Kaigamba and one Bruno.
Mr Nkeera is said to have travelled to the United States, while the other two have disappeared and are being hunted by police.
About two weeks ago, Steve Manyire, one of the claimants, stormed the Be Forward Uganda offices on Jinja Road to inquire about the three cars he ordered back in August, for over $26,000.
At the office, he says, he found several other clients with similar issues like his, and upon inquiring, he was told that the company was “sorting out financial issues”
Manyire says he immediately called police who arrested the MD, Caroline Nampeera and the accountant, Annet Nagawa.
These were locked up for five days before being released on police bond. But after the Resident State Attorney sanctioned the case, the two were rearrested and will be taken to court next week.
As days went by, more complainants came up and they formed a WhatsApp group where they have been sharing their experiences.
Where is the money?
It was not immediately clear how the clients’ money vanished as all our attempts to reach the company owners and managers were fruitless.
But some of the clients who spoke to ChimpReports suspect there is a criminal syndicate running both at the Be Forward office in Japan and it’s agents here.
Those who paid cash at the Ugandan offices say they were later told that their money was never transferred to Japan, while those who paid money directly to Japan through telegraphic transfer (TT) got no receipts, no feedback, no refunds. Just silence.
Gilbert Arinaitwe tells us he ordered for a BMW at $9,400 which he paid fully on October 10th.
The car was supposed to be shipped in December, but to his shock it was never marked “sold” on the website and remains available for sale to date.
Andrew Kisitu, another client says he made half payment for his ordered vehicle and got no receipts. Weeks later, he says, his car was sold to someone else.
Ramadhan Okumu, a transporter says he ordered an Mercedes-Benz Actros truck at $47,500.
The truck was supposed to be shipped to neighboring DRC where he operates.
He says he paid 40,000 through Be Forward Uganda Ltd, but upon inquiring from Japan about the shipping process, he was told his money was not wired.
“I was shocked, so I told the person that I was going to get Interpol involved, and moments later they sent an email telling me that they had only received $10,000 from me” Okumu narrated.
“This is about 6 weeks after I placed the order. So later on they told me that they were cancelling my order and that I should go get my 10,000 from the Uganda office.
“Upon reaching the Jinja Road office, I was told that it was closed, and that it’s managers had been arrested” he said.
The complainants say they have now decided to petition the Japanese Embassy to get Be Forward to refund their money.
“We are also going to write to the American Embassy to help with the repatriation of Henry Nkeera, one of the company owners.” They said.
When contacted, Jinja Road DPC Henry Abaho confirmed the arrest of the Be Forward workers but declined to divulge further details on the case.
ChimpReports however could not get through to Be Forward Uganda sales executives, John Gumisiriza, Lamurah Nazziwa and Allan Omusolo as they didn’t pick our calls.
Our request for comments from three other Tokyo based agents also went unanswered.