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Arrest of Tri-Star Boss Ordered

Vellupilai Kananathan, who is a longtime resident of Kampala, partnered with Tri-Star Sri Lanka to hammer out a deal with President Museveni. Museveni, who was looking for businesses to invest in the new opportunity offered by AGOA, took the project under his wing, ordering the renovation of the former headquarters of the Coffee Marketing Board in Bugolobi and turning it into a textile plant.

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A year after the controversial textile industry, Tri-Star Apparels Uganda, closed down most of its because of unprofitability, a source reveals that the factory's former Managing Director, Vellupilai Kananathan, may be facing arrest.

The highly-placed source says the order to arrest Kananathan has come directly from President Yoweri Museveni. He says the Sri Lankan manager has also been ordered to hand over a Toyota Land Cruiser that was given to him while he was in charge of Tri-Star Apparels.

Tri-Star Apparels was a joint venture between the Government of Uganda and Tri-Star Apparels Sri Lanka that was intended to reap big from the United States Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

Vellupilai Kananathan, who is a longtime resident of Kampala, partnered with Tri-Star Sri Lanka to hammer out a deal with President Museveni. Museveni, who was looking for businesses to invest in the new opportunity offered by AGOA, took the project under his wing, ordering the renovation of the former headquarters of the Coffee Marketing Board in Bugolobi and turning it into a textile plant.

He also campaigned for hundreds of young women, who were popularly known as AGOA girls, to apply for jobs as seamstresses at the factory. An investigation by the Daily Monitor found that government put more than 11 million dollars into the project in form of subsidies, loan guarantees and incentives. None of this money was ever recovered.

Two years after it opened for business, numerous labour disputes and allegations of mismanagement by Kananathan drove Tri-Star Apparels to the ground. Government has blamed Kananathan for the mess at the textile factory.

Elly Womanya, the assistant police commissioner in charge of crime, could neither confirm nor deny reports that President Museveni ordered for Kananathan's arrest and refused to comment on claims that the Criminal Investigations Department had an officer at the Tri-Star Offices investigating the mess there.

Sources say Kananathan has not shown up at the factory in Bugolobi for the past two weeks. Business at Tri Star Apparels is minimal as the management awaits another foreign company, Libyan Africa Portfolio Investments, to salvage the company.

The Libyan company bought majority shares in the factory. In the meantime, TriStar is producing garments for Phoenix Logistics, another textile company that is exporting clothes to the U.S under AGOA.

The workers at the factory have been reduced from 2,000 to just less than 350. Workers said they depend on meals and allowances from the State House.

This claim could not be independently verified. 13 police officers who were deployed to guard the factory have been withdrawn because Tri Star was unable to meet the costs of their maintenance. When contacted for comment, officials at Tri-Star Apparels, refused to speak on any of the issues raised.

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