The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed

Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

Attendants openly ‘rob’ travellers heading to China

A sophisticated racket of workers at Entebbe International airport is minting millions of shillings
daily from unsuspecting travellers to China by extorting money from them ostensibly to process
a yellow fever vaccination certificate, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.

China does not require travellers from Uganda to carry along this certificate, two officials at the
Chinese embassy in Kampala confirmed to The Observer this week.

The well-placed officials, who declined to be named, emphasised that Ugandans intending to
travel to China are made aware of the requirements when they are applying for a visa, and a
yellow fever certificate is not one of them.

“Yellow fever card? No…we don’t ask. In Uganda there is no yellow fever, why should we ask
[for] it?” one of the officials told us.

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The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

Visa requirements
According to the Chinese embassy website, travellers to China are required to pay Shs 130,000
for a single entry visa in addition to proof of where the visitor will be staying in China and
evidence that one can meet their financial needs (See:
http://www.chinese-embassy.info/africa/visa-uga.htm).

However, our investigation has revealed that an extensive syndicate at Entebbe airport that
stretches from the seemingly well-heeled airport staff manning the check-in desks at the
departure lounge to the security personnel imposes the yellow fever certificate as a requirement
for travelers to China well knowing it is not.     
When unsuspecting travelers are cornered by Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) staff placed
between the first security check and the airline check-in desk, they are told they can’t travel until
they have been vaccinated at the airport clinic located near the arrivals lounge.

The unscrupulous airport staff have been able to sell the yellow fever dummy to people going to
China and not the UK or USA because they know a number of countries in Asia such as
Malaysia and Thailand insist on a yellow fever certificate before entry. They thus try to lump in
China, well knowing that many businesspeople are heading there.

The main orchestrators of this scheme are employees of ENHAS, the firm contracted to do
ground clearing at Entebbe, and Das Air Cargo, another firm that specialises in handling cargo
at the airport. Our investigations have revealed that they enjoy the protection of some rogue
security elements in the aviation police, a specialist security unit charged with securing the
airport.

To make their activities appear formal, they in many cases operate through the Airport Medical
Centre, which is partly owned by Civil Aviation Authority although it is run by Kazuri Medical, a
private health provider. Uganda’s deputy consul in China based in Guangzhou, Paul Mukumbi,
recently told a delegation of Ugandans, in a sarcastic way, that Uganda was the only country in
the world “that controls entry to other countries at its airport.”

Indeed, permitting or denying entry to a country is usually a decision of the immigration section
of the country of destination. Mukumbi told the delegation that included MPs, travel agents,
businesspeople and journalists that he had raised the issue of yellow fever certificates with

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The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

airport officials at Entebbe. But the extortion continues. In fact, one of the MPs on that trip
confessed that he too had been conned.

How syndicate works
Countries that insist on yellow fever certificates as a prerequisite for entry, such as South Africa,
make it explicitly clear at the visa application stage. Other countries such as Tanzania and
South Sudan also require travellers to carry the certificate but they do not enforce it as strictly
as South Africa does. Like sheep headed to the slaughterhouse, travellers to China are usually
led down this path of extortion without any choice.

After they clear with the security at the entrance of the departure lounge, travellers are then
asked to proceed to a desk, a few metres away to have their documents scrutinized further. The
scam commences at this desk that is manned by uniformed employees of ENHAS, often
women.

These workers, once they confirm from your travel documents that you are headed to China,
they ask whether you have carried the certificate. Without it, they say, you will not be allowed
entry into the country; therefore, you will not be allowed onto your flight. Airline officials manning
check-in desks, particularly Kenya Airways staff, will normally confirm what these officials are
saying.

The ENHAS staff will then offer to ‘help’ you secure one at between Shs 100,000 ($40) and Shs
250,000 ($100), depending on their sense of judgment of your financial ability. No receipts are
issued. Alternatively, they will send you to the airport clinic, Kazuri Medical, where a certificate
is obtained without hassle after payment.

From the appearance of the yellow fever cards issued (usually photocopied or in faint print), the
evidence of the shoddiness of their work is laid bare. Unknown to the victim, the “medical
worker” who hands you the certificate in the clinic could be a conman/woman, playing his or her
part in the syndicate.  On other occasions, the certificate is handed to the victim in an isolated
place within the airport complex to avoid easy detection.

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The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

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'Arrest them'

George Tytens, the managing director of ENHAS, appeared shocked by the revelation that his
employees could be involved in the scam.

“I am the wrong person to approach on this matter. Go and report them to police and if they are
arrested, I will be happy to sack them,” Tytens told The Observer in his office on Wednesday,
declining to comment any further.

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The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

Lodovick Awita, commandant of the Aviation Police, acknowledged the existence of the yellow
fever card scam and said they were doing all within their power to fight it.

“They threaten people that you are going to miss your flight if you don’t pay for the card. We
arrested some of them in July but I know they are still there,” he said.

Asked whether he was aware that some of his personnel might be part of the syndicate, Awita
said that was not true. He said that if this were the case, they would not have made progress in
the fight against this syndicate. Dr James Eyul, who heads the airport clinic, told The Observer
that he was surprised that his facility was being used to facilitate extortion.

“Here we carry out genuine vaccinations. Before you are issued with a card, we have to first
inject you [with a vaccine]. After that, your name is entered in the book and you are issued with
a receipt,” Eyul said.

A genuine yellow fever card, he said, costs $40 (Shs 100,000) at the clinic. But Dr Eyul
confirmed he was aware that some people at the airport were extorting money from travellers
under the pretext of getting them yellow fever cards, which in most cases were forged.

Eyul doubted whether any of his 15-member staff could be an accomplice in such a scam but
acknowledged that there was need for more vigilance. Sources at the airport have told us that
there are  efforts to try to rein in the perpetrators of the scam but the real culprits have not been
netted.

In July, our source said, three workers in the cargo section were arrested after they tried to
extort money from two intelligence officers disguised as travellers in exchange for forged yellow
fever certificates.

“They were taped on camera,” the source said.

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The Observer - Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Written by Edris Kiggundu
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:33

Two were dismissed but one, according to our source, was released and reinstated at work
after he appealed to a relative, who is a senior police officer.
ekiggundu@observer.ug

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