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    Bad Economy Creates Panic At New Vision As Restructuring Plan Threatens Top Bosses’ Jobs…

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    Vision Group boss Don Wanyama and the company offices in Industrial Area

    The economy stupid has created panic at the country’s leading multimedia house the Vision Group the publishers of the New Vision, as looming restructuring plans threaten jobs of some of the top company bosses.

    Highly placed insiders at Plot 19/21 First Street, Industrial Area intimated to theGrapevine that a number of meetings have been held as Board members led by Patrick Ayota and the Company’s administration led by Don Innocent Wanyama to brainstorm and strategise on how the unavoidable restructuring will look like.

    These insiders added that the company top management is also looking at how to deliver the news to the affected personsand how to compensate them according to their contracts which they plan to terminate.

    They narrated that the move is basically going to affect members of staff who are paid seven figure salaries every month as a way of cutting costs to enable the ship sail through the rough economic tides.

    Recently, Wanyama, the Vision Group Chief Executive Officer, warned the company’s current and prospective shareholders of an impending loss for the year 2022/2023.

    Wanyama based his announcement on the “preliminary assessment” of the company’s performance by the Board of Directors, which is expected to return a loss for the year.

    He explained that the company’s bad performance is as a result of the recent price hikes of inputs like; newsprint and other raw material inputs resulting from global supply chain disruptions.

    He added that the company’s revenues are dominated by printing which accounts for almost half, followed by broadcasting (radio and television) outlets, commercial printing and others.

    “The main contributor to this performance is the challenging business environment due to slow business recovery from the COVID-19 impact on newspaper sales and advertising revenue spent across the different platforms,”  Wanyama stated.

    Sources said that once the company’s top management agrees on the next move, they will communicate to the affected staff who will first be given an option to accept a pay cut on their monthly salaries and allowances.

    According to the plan, whoever refuses this option will be shown the exit door.

    And for vital position where a person will opt to leave, they will first advertise them internally before welcoming external applicants.

    The company is already losing a number of their experienced senior staff who have decided to look for greener pastures abroad.

    This has mainly affected the editorial and finance department.

    New Vision is not alone in the pool of struggling media houses.

    Recently, Nation Media Chief Executive Officer Tony Glencross disclosed that he is set to resign with sources inside the company whispering that he failed to achieve the targets set by the top company management.

    Also, former legislator Moses Balyeku’s Baba television is also struggling to survive and a number of senior staff are resigning after spending months without being paid.

    The situation is the same at Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s CBS radio and a number of media houses owned by politicians and religious leaders especially born again pastors who are known for not paying their workers.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    CRIME

    Terra Solar Energy Swiss Boss, Girlfriend Dragged To Court Over Shs19bn Fraudulent Land Deal …

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    Heimhofer's girlfriend Mariam Kajumba

    Swiss businessman David Ferdinand Heimhofer and his girlfriend Mariam Kajumba the properiator of Terra Solar Energy Limited together with the Commissioner Land Registration have been dragged to Court over a Shs19bn fraudulent land deal.

    City car dealer businessman Medad Osborn Twesigye, the proprietor of Testimony Motors Limited accuses the defendants and their company of fraudulently grabbing his land measuring 499.781 hectares comprised on Block 5 plots 623, 633 land at Kayera, Bugahya in Hoima district.

    In his suit filed at Hoima High Court, Twesigye through his lawyers led by Fred Muwema claim that in August of 2022, he was approached by a lawyer who introduced himself as Accram Luzinda and a land agent Jim Kibira who told him that they had a deal of selling his land to Ferdinand and his girlfriend.

    He later met the accused persons at Fairway Hotel Kampala where they confirmed to him that they were interested in his land since they had entered a deal with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s government to start a solar energy project in Hoima.

    In his affidavit, Twesigye claimed that the accused persons requested him to first allow them to carry out a site survey of the land to confirm its ownership, size, soil conditions and accessibility which was done and the final report from the investigation was issued in October 2022.

    He explained that the defendants told him that they are ready to purchase his land under the names of Terra Sola Energy Limited.

    Swiss businessman David Ferdinand Heimhofer

    They even signed a Memorandum of Understanding to purchase the land at the cost of UD$5m and both parties agreed that the agreement should be valid for a period of 10 months with a two months extension.

    Twesigye explained that the said period was supposed to be used by the defendants to carry out a feasibility study to determine the suitability of the land for a solar power project which was done and the results were positive.

    They agreed that the defendants deposit to the plaintiff’s bank account a non-refundable fee of UD$100,000 as down payment before the purchase of the land was done.

    The payment was supposed to be done within 10 days from the date of signing the solar power implementation Agreement with President Museveni’s government.

    Twesigye claimed that in December 2022, the accused persons used the Memorandum of Understanding they signed with him to lodge a caveat on his land before even depositing the UD$100,000 on his bank account.

    He made a written complaint against the defendants in March 2023.

    He explained that the defendants wrote back explaining that they lodged a caveat to protect their interest in the land even though the government had delayed the process of signing the agreement with them to deposit the agreeable amount of money.

    They added that they had instructed their local engineers to conduct further studies to identify the grid capacity in Hoima and get the government to agree to the said study so as to trigger payment.

    He added that in May 2023, he instructed his lawyers to demand the defendants to remove the caveat registered on his land but they insisted that they could not remove the caveat because if they do, they were going to lose the money they had already used since they had already entered the deal.

    Twesigye told Court that in December 2023, a serious Arab investor approached him and told him that he has interest in his land.

    He added that this investor wanted to establish a sugar project.

    Twesigye narrated that he asked the defendants to remove the caveat but they refused which forced him to carry out due diligence to establish the legality of the company he was dealing with.

    In December 2023, he found out that it had paltry capital of Shs10,000,000 with no registered office or assets in Uganda.

    He further established that the company never conducts any business in Uganda as alleged by the defendants but they were using it to veil corporate personality as a mask to defraud him.

    He pleaded with court to declare that the defendants have no caveat-able interest on his land and also asked court to direct the Commissioner Land Registration to lift the caveat placed on his land.

    He also asked court to order the defendants to pay monetary compensation for lodgment of the impugned caveat on his land, general damages for material distress and inconvenience caused, exemplary damages, interest on any pecuniary award at 23% from December 2022 till the payments in full.

    The defendants have not yet filed their defense.

     

    By Hadijah Namagembe

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    MY MONEY

    MTN, Three Ways Directors Shs.9.5bn Fraud Scandal Enters Final Stage After Top Judge Rules On Case To Answer…

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    Geoffrey Baitwa one of the Managing Directors at Threeways Shipping Services (Group) Ltd.

    Justice Lawrence Gidudu the Head of the Anti-Corruption Court has directed Oscar Baitwa and Geoffrey Bihamaiso the Directors of the Jinja road based Three Ways Shipping Service Limited to defend themselves in the Shs9.5bn fraud case.

    The accused persons who are brothers are supposed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they didn’t participate in the theft, conspiracy to defraud, obtain money by fraud and conspire to defraud Shs9.5bn as the Director for Public Prosecution (DPP) through Abigail Agaba claims.

    “The fact that the accused persons kept quiet from 2009 to 2012 while huge sums of dollars were coming in for no work done renders the accused liable as links in the chain. The two have a case to answer on all the accounts,” the nonsense judge ruled.

    According to court documents, MTN Uganda contracted Three Ways to provide forwarding and clearing services for its equipment sourced from overseas.

    In the course of business, MTN Uganda alleged that Three Ways had been paid money based on false invoices supported by fake airway bills.

    DPP claims that the accused persons connived with JP Bosabosa and Naphatali Were who were employees of MTN who pleaded guilty and asked to be allowed to negotiate with the complaint and pay some of the stolen money.

    DPP further dropped charges against Faridah Senkumba, Kafuko Wasswa who were employees of Three Ways who were earlier accused of processing the money which was paid in fraud.

    Agaba the lead prosecutor told court that Baitwa and Bihamaiso together with Oscar Baitwa Obusa were the principal signatories to the company’s bank accounts and were mandated holders of the accounts used to siphon money from MTN insisting that they participated by facilitating the exit of the stolen money.

    She added that the accused persons were the brain behind those activities of their company and were responsible for facilitating the theft of USD 3,800,000.

    She further submitted that the stolen money was moved electronically and was received by the accused’s company through their bank accounts and fraudulently processed by employees of MTN.

    She insists that the two accused persons are signatories to the said company bank accounts and benefited from the stolen money.

    “As regards the participation of the accused persons, Agaba referred to the testimony of Masanso, PW11, a fraud investigator who testified that he was called by the accused for a meeting over this case. He met them and they asked him to destroy evidence at a fee of USD 150,000 which he declined,” a judge stated.

    Agaba insisted that whether the invoices from Three Ways company were transmitted by flash disk or by email, the fact remains that they committed the offences by obtaining money without providing service to MTN.

    She told court that the entire fraud was discovered after MTN contracted Deloitte International company to do a forensic investigation according to supplier payment documents.

    However, Henry Kyalimpa the accused’s lawyer submitted that since there was a running contract between MTN and his client’s company, any money paid to the accused’s bank accounts was for service rendered.

    He told court that there was no evidence that any of the accused persons provided MTN with fictitious invoices to make payments and the DPP failed to connect the accused persons to the crime.

    He insisted that Naphtali, JP Bosabosa and all employees of MTN were the ones that processed payments from MTN, not his clients.

    Kyalimpa pinned Senkumba and Kafuko as the source of the fictitious invoices. Unfortunately, the DPP shielded them and they did not testify to implicate the accused persons.

    In conclusion, the judge stated that on the stage of a case to answer, court did not evaluate evidence to find if the accused are guilty or not.

    “It is not in dispute, at this stage, that money was processed fraudulently, using unregistered invoices from Three Ways company which were attached to bogus airway bills that were not issued by any airlines or endorsed by customs,” the judge stated.

    The judge discovered that the money under dispute is USD1,800,000 not USD 3,800,000 as MTN claims.

     

    By Grapevine Reporter

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    MY MONEY

    Panicky Bitature, Wife Carol Fly Abroad As Court Of Appeal Sets Date To Seal Their Criminal Prosecution Fate Over Shs100bn Fraud…

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    Businessman Patrick Bitature

    Troubled city tycoon Patrick Bitature and his wife Carol Bitature have travelled abroad after Court of Appeal Justice set date to seal their criminal prosecution fate in the Shs100bn fraud allegations.

    Bitature and his wife are expected to appear before Justice Hallen Obura of the Court of Appeal which also doubles as the Constitutional Court to hear their application where they are seeking permanent stay of the criminal charges slapped on them at Buganda Road Court.

    Their lawyers led by Brian Moogi and Anthony Bazira of Byenkya, Kihika and Company Advocates told court that their clients were not present in court but pleaded with the presiding justice to make her ruling before the end of this week.

    Moogi explained to Justice Obura that his client is under threat from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) who informed Court that she took over the matter from private prosecutor Robert Kirunda and is ready to proceed with it.

    He revealed that the DPP wanted to embarrass their clients by formally bringing them into the dock, charging and remanding them to prison as criminals.

    Moogi explained to court that his clients had challenged the entire commercial agreement at the Commercial and Civil Division of the High Court insisting that it was illegal.

    He added that the Criminal Division of the High Court judge Rosette Kania didn’t give his clients the opportunity to defend themselves in the matter in which they had interest in.

    Instead they proceeded to determine it ex-part after dismissing their application to join the criminal matter Kirunda filed at the High Court challenging Buganda Road Court decision of dismissal on lack of jurisdiction.

    Justice Rosette Kania of the Criminal Division of the High Court ordered Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate to re-instate the criminal charges against Bitature and wife after lawyer Kirunda the recognised agent and lawyer to South African based money lending company Vantage Mezzanine Fund 11 Partnership.

    Moogi told Court that Buganda Road Court issued criminal summons against his clients and they are expected to appear before Ronald Kayizzi, the Chief Magistrate, to answer the criminal charges.

    theGrapevine has exclusively learnt that the embattled businessman and his wife flew out of the country to the United States then proceed to the United Kingdom on a business trip.

    However, insiders close to the businessman said that they traveled abroad to get time to rest because they were under pressure and wanted some time alone to think about the future.

    “The man is panicking. He fears to be humiliated once taken to the dock with his wife to answer criminal charges. He pleaded on phone to Ebert Byenkya to help him join Moogi, after other lawyers refused to help him because they are demanding a lot of money from him which he currently doesn’t have even though he is willing to pay them,” a source said.

    Moses Muziki, the lawyer who represented Kirunda told Court that his client is also is out of the country in California, United States handling business issues.

    Muziki protested the application to stay the proceedings of the criminal prosecution against the businessman and wife, explaining that it was overtaken by events.

    He asked for the dismissal of the application with costs.

    He insisted that the applicant didn’t have the locus-standi to appeal against a decision where he was not a party noting that if he wanted to join the matter, his prayer would have been filed at the High Court Criminal Division before it was determined.

    Moogi pleaded to Court not to proceed with the application on Tuesday morning because he was not ready since Kirunda’s lawyers served him their defence in their application on that day in the morning.

    He explained that his defense is huge and they need time to make a rejoinder and also submissions at once.

    Justice Obura directed them to file and serve their rejoinder before the close of today and promised to deliver her ruling on Friday afternoon.

    Kirunda claims that Bitature and his wife in December 2014 at Diamond Trust Building along Kampala Road through their companies of Linda Properties, Elgon Terrace Ltd and Simba Telecom borrowed Shs38bn from Vantage Mezzanine Fund 11 Partnership and they offered their companies’ shares as security.

    He added that between 2019 and 2020, they both fraudulently altered shares of their companies with intent to defraud Vantage Mezzanine Fund 11 Partnership of about Shs101bn.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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