Nakawa Chief Magistrate's court has remanded Michael Ahabwe Mugerwa, the managing director of Mushra Tourism Agency to Luzira prison for allegedly obtaining money by false pretense from an American tourist, Wendy Payne.
It is alleged that Mugerwa obtained $17,949 (about Shs 74 million) from Payne which was meant to cater for a two-day family trip to Queen Elizabeth national park in October 2018.
Wendy is said to have given Mugerwa the money to arrange for air travel for her family to Queen Elizabeth, but surprisingly, he reportedly hired a car which took them by road. The suspect allegedly later abandoned the tourists in the middle of the park.
Mugerwa who appeared in court on Monday afternoon pleaded not guilty to the charges read against him. He asked court presided by Grade One magistrate Fiona Angura to be released on bail - citing that he has spent nine days in police cells before being produced in court.
Mugerwa also argued that he is a family man who has got responsibility of looking after his school-going children and is also the one taking care of his ailing mother.
He presented three sureties who had local council letters and national identification cards. The three include; his wife Halima Nagawa, resident of Lubowa, Badru Bigirwa a resident of Bukoto and Ainamani Mirian Mugerwa a resident Mutungo.
However state prosecutor Justine Nakawuzi said that the value of the subject matter before court is high and thus the matter needed to be exercised with due diligence. Nakawuzi thus asked for a day to look through the local council letters presented by the sureties.
Trouble for the accused person started when the tourist alerted Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) that she has had been defrauded by Mugerwa.
Mugerwa was later arrested by the tourism police detectives. The spokesperson of UTB Sandra Natukunda said that such unpalatable activities continue by tourism operators affect the tourism sector.
"Tourism itself grows depending on the perceptions tourists have of a country. If tourists come to the country and find out that they are fleeced or the contracts that they pay for are not fulfilled, they take money out of the country. He [Mugerwa] is literally taking money out of pockets of very many Ugandans, leave alone making the image of the country look bad. He actually takes money out of the country. As you know by now tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner." Natukunda said.
The suspect will return to court on February 11.