By Mubiru Ivan

Uganda’s gold exports have continued to baffle many. As at the end of 2016 the exports rose to $336m (Shs1.2 trillion), rivaling coffee and the sole reason Uganda’s exports rose by 1 per cent. This is the closest any single export has come close to coffee in many years.

One of the reasons for the rise in gold exports is because of the value being added to the gold by the African Gold Refinery, a privately owned refinery that was launched by President Yoweri Museveni last year.

It accounts for at least 90 per cent of the gold that was exported out of the country in 2016 and the final half of 2015.

Uganda is not a known gold producer on a large scale to put up numbers seen in the export statistics.

The African Gold Refinery, a $15m facility located in Entebbe, Wakiso District has been sourcing gold from around the Great Lakes Region before they export the 99.99 per cent purified gold that has a higher value.

The disclosures on the origin of that gold are still farfetched.

However, according to renowned social media blogger Henry Kakensa, there’s a fake gold money syndicate operating in Kampala that cons locals and foreigners alike million of dollars.

He says most of the city socialites in town are part and parcel of the clique.

“There is a systematic syndicate of youths who deal in ‘air’gold which has taken over the social scene by splashing money in bars and social gatherings. They work as a team, including the funders,(those who invest initially in their potential victim), a fronter(normally these are women), a banker(who acts like a gold bond guarantor), a flasher(who owns genuine gold used to show(flash) their potential victim) & the security(normally police in involved,this is why Bakaleke in in trouble),” Kakensa posted on his Facebook page.

The blogger says the conmen lure their prey especially foreigners into coming to Uganda, they give them a VIP treat, hire an office of a reputable person. While at office, they sample them with a few kilograms of genuine gold purportedly hired from a bank through a bank employee (part of the clique) which leaves them buyer convinced.

The next thing the victims do is paying these conmen thus giving him/her fake gold or nothing in return.

“These guys will lure their prey into coming into Gold trade Uganda, they invite you and once you get to UG, they will give you a VIP treat, securing police escorts, they will hire an office of a reputable person(normally when the owner of the office is not aware, they use his workers) and while there they will bring you a few kilos of genuine gold bonds purportedly from the bank(this is where the banker is involved), the Police will be in place to safeguard the treasure, after you have seen this, you will travel back well contented you are beginning to deal with genuine gold dealers. When you finally send the money in millions of dollars to begin the transaction, you are duped. This is how our top Kampala money boys get their fraudulent money. After the deal is done, money is shared,” he said.

How to avoid falling victim to fake gold sellers

If you want to to buy from a local dealer, make sure that you check the dealer’s reputation or get recommendations from reputable people in the business.

In addition, you should learn the basics of how to identify fake gold.

Be sure to bring a reliable portable scale with you to any gold buying appointment; even if you only plan on purchasing a few grams.

“This way, you know that you are buying the right quantity,” advises Jane Katushabe, a local dealer.

Also, it should be noted that counterfeiters are becoming savvier.

If you want to invest in an all-in-one authentication tool, you might want to consider purchasing a ‘fake gold’ detector.