The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Bulgarians Begin Defence Over ATM Fraud Charges

The four Bulgarians at the centre of an automated teller machine fraud case are set to kick off their defence next week.

Ivan Ganchev, Milen Katsarki, Adrian Dimitrov and Anton Ivanow, will try to prove their innocence before two courts - Nakawa and Buganda Road - where they face a combined 36 counts of attempting to defraud Stanbic bank. The case is important to an institution like Stanbic, which has been hit by ATM scammers in recent times. The bank is one of those that have lost huge amounts of money through ATM fraudsters.

Other banks have also faced the same problems, with banks either issuing new ATM cards or engaging in public education campaigns about being on the lookout for fraudsters. According to the case, prosecution alleges that on August 30 this year, while in Kampala, the four Bulgarians tried to defraud 36 Stanbic bank customers through the use of ATM cards at Nateete branch. The state presented nine witnesses to prove its point.

However, offering evidence as the last state witness, Detective Inspector of Police Balamu Bwengye, who investigated the case, could have made some reckless remarks that could easily favour the defendants.

Bwengye, who earlier testified that he does not know whether the bank lost any money, said that he does not know the use of an inverter and that though he confiscated a hammer, among other things, from the Bulgarian's residence, he is not aware whether it is one of the tools that is used to steal money from an ATM.

Dalton Oponya, the lawyer representing the Bulgarians, chose to take advantage of this. "So your head is blank; you only threw a stone in the bush to see whether there is an animal, that is why you brought a hammer as an exhibit and you planted ATM cards on the accused. That is the very reason you don't know how to avoid being a victim of ATM skimming," he said.

Bwengye fought back. "I may not know the use of some of the exhibits like an inverter or a hammer because I did not even ask the technical people from the bank to tell me but they came and testified. I am here to wait for the decision of court," he said.

The Bulgarians have been on remand for close to three months. The Police is holding their passports and about Shs 2m until court disposes of the case. The Bulgarians begin their defence in the Nakawa court next week on December 12.

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