He studied medicine, but did not practice it, choosing a career in business because he wanted to be rich. And he made money over the years, managing to acquire property worth millions of dollars. But he now says he is depressed. He spends a lot of time in Uganda seeking justice, spending yet more out of his decimated fortune.
When he first came to Uganda in March 2017, Dessie felt he was on the verge of making even more money.
He has a friend called Abebe, who also lives in South Africa. In his search for opportunities, Abebe went to Juba when South Sudan had just gained independence.
In their conversations, Dessie says, Malong told Abebe that because he was the son of his father, he did not require prior appointment to access any official in Juba and in some places in the region.
Abebe was convinced that Malong was the right friend to have. The first experiment ended in failure. Dessie says Malong introduced Abebe to a man he called his friend, who he also said was a minister in the government of South Sudan.
Shortly after Abebe returned to South Africa, Dessie says, Malong followed him, at the invitation of his friend. Dessie says Malong stayed over in South Africa for three years – up to 2015 – with all his bills catered for by his host. It was during that time that Dessie got to meet Malong.
When Malong left South Africa, he operated in Uganda and Kenya, and in November 2016, Dessie says, Malong informed Abebe that there was a gold deal in Uganda out of which they could make a killing.
On November 26, 2016, Abebe traveled to Uganda to find out details. Dessie says Malong took Abebe to Speke Resort Munyonyo and introduced him to his team.
According to Malong’s story as told to Abebe, Dessie says, there was a rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an army general, who owned up to tonnes of gold. This rebel leader would not be available to meet with gold buyers, Dessie says Malong told Abebe, but that he had delegated his brother, Mike Okitalunyi Lota, to act on his behalf.
After the meeting, Malong and his group took Abebe to a house in Muyenga, Kampala, where the gold on offer was stored. They showed him 150 bars – 150 kgs of what was supposed to be gold.
To make him believe the story, Dessie said, Malong and his group melted a piece of genuine gold in Abebe’s presence.
After Abebe felt that he had confirmed the existence of the gold, Dessie says Malong and group told him that if he finished the 150 kgs, they would avail more gold for him to buy, up to two tonnes.
Now that Abebe had confirmed what he saw as a lucrative gold deal, it was time to find money to transact because he did not have enough.
He called his longtime friend Dessie. Dessie says his first reaction was to refuse to get involved, saying since he did not have a licence to trade in gold, he would not participate in the illegal business.
Abebe told Malong as much, and Malong had a solution. Malong, Dessie says, told them it did not matter that the others had no licence since he had a mining licence for gold and diamond. Debbie says Malong told them the licence was not an issue and all they needed to do was to buy the gold, pay the taxes due to government, and fly it out of the country.
But Dessie was trying to proceed with caution. He says he told them he wanted to start with buying one kilogram and that if the deal worked out, he would return for bigger business.
After Malong and group failed to convince him to buy more, Dessie says, they settled for the one kilogram he wanted at the start. He was to pay $23,000 (about Shs 85 million), 5 per cent tax and one per cent for insurance. He says he paid US$30,000 (about Shs 111 million) in total for the first kilogram of gold, which he planned to sell in Dubai.
Dessie says they then asked the sellers to avail them the documentation and the gold they had paid for so that they would travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to do business. A complication set in at that stage – Malong’s licence had expired.
Dessie says Malong asked them for $10,000 (about Shs 37m) to renew it. They considered the request and decided that instead of losing the $30,000 (Shs 111m) they had already paid for the gold, they were better off paying the $10,000 (about Shs 37m) to renew the licence.
After they gave him the money, Malong presented to them what was supposed to be a renewed licence.
At this stage, Gavana, who was supposed to be a clearing agent for gold deals, educates Abebe and Dessie that in gold trade, the agent travels with the precious metal to the airport and sees them through all the processes.
So, on the appointed day of their flight, Dessie and Abebe traveled to Entebbe airport and waited for Gavana.
While they waited, Dessie says, Malong and his group called to tell them that there was another complication, that according to Ugandan law, the buyers would not be allowed to travel with just one kilogram of gold since the gold had entered the country from DRC as 600 kgs.
When they showed them what was supposed to be gold for the second time in Muyenga in Kampala, Dessie says Malong and group had told them that in the same house where they had seen the 150 kgs, there were also 450 kgs that was available for sale.
Because they were already deep into the deal, Dessie and Abebe raised more money and paid for another nine kilograms, spending $150,000 (about Shs 555 million) to buy it and $50,000 (about Shs. 185 million) to pay taxes, all of which Dessie says was handed to Malong and group.
When the appointed day to fly to Dubai came, Dessie and Abebe again received the same explanation. Malong and his group told them that Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) would not allow them to take only 10 kgs of gold out of the country yet the gold entered the country from DRC when it was 600 kgs.
At this point, Dessie says, they lost their heads and demanded to be refunded their money and abort the deal. Refunding the money, however, was not an option since Malong and group said it had already been spent.
Dessie says Malong explained to them that the owner of the gold, who was also supposedly running a rebel group in DRC, had soldiers to feed and other bills to pay.
No one anywhere in the world would like to mess up with the two Generals, Dessie says Malong assured them.
To avoid the complication of being blocked at the airport because of small quantities, Dessie says then Malong came up with the idea that they instead buy 150 kgs of gold.
“We trust you, at least you pay the tax and take the gold, sell and pay us after,” Dessie quotes Malong as saying.
He says when they said they did not even have the money to pay tax for the 150 kgs, Malong told them he did not have money to refund their investment, and that they did not want to lose it.
Dessie and Abebe went back to South Africa to look for it. When they returned with $200,000 (Shs 740 million), Dessie says, Malong and group told them that it was not enough, but they would use that to talk to an officer of URA to let them through Entebbe.
Before releasing the money, Dessie, says, they demanded to see the URA officer referred to. Malong then presented to them a man he called Patrick, who he introduced as “chief officer” of URA.
Patrick eventually agreed to let them export the gold and pay the other part of the tax after they sell, Dessie says. After paying the $200,000 (about Shs. 740 m) as a deposit on the taxes, Dessie says, another demand cropped up.
After receiving the money, Malong and group allowed the gold to be shipped to Dubai. Another scene was just unfolding.
On the appointed day of the flight to Dubai, Dessie and Abebe went to the airport and, as they had got used to doing, waited for Gavana to come through with the gold and documentation.
Gavana this time showed up, and he did have the cargo – a steel container with 150 bars of gold. Dessie says the box was opened and they were allowed to inspect it to confirm that it is what they had bought.
They confirmed it and were allowed to lock the box with their own padlock and take the keys. The duo traveled to Dubai and were told that their cargo would follow them there.
On the following day while in Dubai, they went to Blue Sky Cargo to ask for their merchandise. On leaving Entebbe airport, they had been given the paperwork and a tracking number for their gold.
The cargo was nowhere to be found.
Dessie says Malong told them not to worry, that he was always in control, that the gold would be found. The following day, Dessie says, Malong called to say the gold had been taken to Nairobi and not Dubai, requesting them to fly to Nairobi. Dessie and Abebe flew to Nairobi.
Dessie says when they got to Nairobi, they found Malong and group, who informed them that the gold was in the hands of the revenue body. “Malong told us that a chief Kenya revenue service officer was his brother, so we were lucky,” Dessie says.
Dessie says Owino told them that the revenue officer in Uganda had smuggled the gold to Nairobi instead of sending it to Dubai because the duo had only paid less than half of the tax.
Dessie says Malong told them that they were in luck because if Owino was not his brother, the gold would have been seized by the tax body in Kenya.
Dessie and Abebe were then required to pay another $450,000 (about Shs 1.6 b) to complete the process.
Muhammad Kasule, who is also proprietor of Blue Diamond Corporation, allegedly conned Ms Florence Kiremerwa and her US business partner, Mr Richard Richards, of the said money after promising to deliver to them two kilograms of gold.
Mr Vicent Ssekatte, the spokesman of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, said: “A complaint was made to us and we have arrested Kasule on charges of obtaining money by false pretences and uttering false documents and forgery.”
Mr Richards wired US$48,000 to Ms Kiremerwa’s bank account. She also transferred the money to Kasule’s account in KCB main branch in Kampala City.
Mr Ssekatte said Kasule didn’t deliver the two kilogrammes of gold. “He told Richards to travel back to US and convinced him that he would send the consignment. When Richards went back to the US, Kasule started dealing with him directly,” he said.
Dessie and Abebe had already spent way beyond their limits but seeing no return on the investment. They just could not raise the money Malong and Owino said was needed to pay the taxes in Nairobi.
But before the bond could be approved, he said he needed to facilitate the process.
Dessie and Abebe chose to fight on. They flew back to South Africa and Dessie mortgaged his house for $500,000 (Shs1.8b), which he sent to Malong as he claimed he also needed $200,000 (Shs742m) for his expenditures while in Nairobi, working on the duo’s issues.
When the duo returned to Nairobi, Dessie says Owino was optimistic that all would be fine, but he had a fresh piece of advice. Instead of taking the gold to Dubai as the original plan had been, they should fly it to Hong Kong. A week later, Dessie said, Owino was ready with the documentation that would help the duo fly their gold to Hong Kong.
Malong told the duo that the General had appointed a lawyer to represent him in the transaction, and that they needed to first fly back to Kampala to meet with the lawyer before they traveled to Hong Kong. In Kampala, Dessie says they met a man who introduced himself as Tony, whose real name he says he later found out to be Hannington Tayoba.
The meeting happened at BMK House near Hotel Africana, Dessie says, in an office tagged as a law firm. Dessie says Tony told them that he had instructions from the General to travel with them to Hong Kong, but that he would do that at the duo’s expense because he was going to help them and they were holding high value merchandise belonging to his client.
Dessie and Abebe now had to clear the hurdle of paying the Shs37m to Fedex for storage before they would at last be able to sell the gold the following day.
Dessie says he called his Chinese friend and asked for a one-day loan of that amount. The Chinese friend, Dessie says, did not have the money ready, but said he would give him the money the following morning. Dessie and Abebe went with Tony to his hotel, had dinner and finally retired to their low-end hotel in the knowledge that their pursuit of many months would mature the following day.
Early on the appointed morning, at 9 am, Dessie and Abebe were at the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong, having already picked the money from Dessie’s dutiful Chinese friend.
In panic, Dessie and Abebe called Malong, who had stayed back in Kampala, and explained what had happened. Ever the calm actor, Dessie says, Malong told them that they needed not worry. He was the son of a General; and the gold belonged to another General. No one could cross the two Generals because it is very dangerous, Dessie says Malong assured them. They flew back to Kampala to meet Malong and his group for a solution.
Dessie says that he and Abebe, in the company of Malong and Gavana, met Tony in the office they had first met him on BMK House. Tony told them he had abandoned them in Hong Kong because he did not trust them and “did not want to waste time with us.”
Dessie says Tony told them he was busy at the moment but that he would be available to travel with them again in two weeks’ time now that there had been more confidence building. The duo spent the two weeks at Speke Resort Munyonyo waiting for Tony.
But before they would travel to Hong Kong again, Tony told the duo that the bond Owino had contracted in Nairobi on their behalf to support their tax payment had expired, and Dessie and Abebe had to pay the $150,000 (Shs557m). Dessie and Abebe, devoid of cash, turned to Malong for advice on how they would proceed. He says Malong told them that he would call the wife of the Congolese General, who he called “Madam General”, and ask for help.
‘Madam General’ did not have cash when Malong called her, however, but she offered them 50kgs of gold to sell in Uganda so that they would raise money to get by. Dessie says they told Malong that they did not know any gold buyers in Uganda, so the 50kgs of gold would not help them. Dessie says Malong told them he knew gold buyers in Uganda.
With the issue of market now disposed of, there remained the issue of how the gold would leave Congo for Uganda. Malong asked Dessie and Abebe to raise $30,000 (Shs111m) for transport, which they did. After this money was available, Malong also said he would have to go to DR Congo and needed $10,000(Shs37m). That too he was given, Dessie says.
After ‘returning’ with the gold, Dessie and Abebe now looked to Malong to have it sold. Malong said he would invite Owino to come over and take it to Nairobi for sale.
The duo returned from South Africa with Shs. 371m and handed it over to Gavana to facilitate a return to Hong Kong to sell the 50 kgs of gold. The documentation was prepared and soon they were on a flight back to Hong Kong. At Entebbe airport, they were given a tracking number to follow the 50 kgs of gold that they were told was on its way to Hong Kong.
Dessie and Abebe decided to fly to Kampala instead and get a clearer picture of how they would proceed in the new year. They met with Malong’s group and Tony at his office, again. They wanted Tony to break down the costs that stood in the way of the Hong Kong deal being completed.
They returned to Uganda and he handed the money to Tony, he says in the presence of Malong and the entire group, at his office at BMK house. He also gave Tony $10,000 (Shs. 37m) for transport and other costs for the trip to Hong Kong.