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    FIA, Immigration Officers At Entebbe Airport In Trouble Over USD 289,980; Court Declares Them Ignorant On Money Laundering Laws…

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    Justice Lawrance Gidudu who made the ruling

    Ezeh Gibson Chukuebuka, a Nigerian international has praised Justice Lawrance Gidudu of the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court for dismissing criminal charges relating to Money Laundering slapped on him in 2021.

    He told theGrapevine that in 2021, he came to Uganda as a tourist but ended up being imprisoned because of the large sums of money he was moving with.

    Chukuebuka said that Justice Gidudu’s judgement is going to encourage potential investors and tourists from Nigeria to bring their money in Uganda because they are disturbed when they transport it via banks.

    He pleaded with Finance Intelligence Authority (FIA) officials to comply with the judgment and release his money so that he can return back to his home country and meet his wife, children, friends and relatives who he has spent two years without seeing.

    In his landmark judgment, Justice Gidudu declared FIA and Immigration Officers at Entebbe International Airport incompetent and ignorant of the Money Laundering Laws which puts the country’s image in bad light.

    “The reasons for denying the accused a Visa by PW1 (Mercy Tushabe, an Immigration Officer) were not valid legally. It was either her lack of experience or pressure of work. The letter and air tickets are not, without more, sufficient to arouse the necessary suspicion to deny a traveler a tourist Visa. It is not one of those objective factual circumstances to impute knowledge that the money the accused carried is the proceeds of crime,” the Judge stated.

    According to Court documents, Chukuebuka was arrested at Entebbe International Airport in November 2021 because he was found in possession of USD 289,980. He was charged and remanded to Luzira prison.

    Prosecution led by Senior State Attorney James Khaukha pleaded with the presiding judge to put the accused person on defense on grounds that the money in question were proceeds from criminal activities given the manner in he packed the money on his body and in bags.

    He added that the money was also too much and that such money is not usually carried in hidden places on the body.

    Khaukh presented six prosecution witnesses including Maureen Mudondo a supervisor at the Airport, Paul Higenyi the Investigating Officer of the offences and others who failed to prove their case and convince the judge to put the accused on defense.

    Their accusations were watered down by Counsel Emmanuel Emoru of Emoru and Company Advocates who led the defense legal team who noted that there was no proof that there was money laundering or that Chukuebuka’s money were proceeds from a criminal activity.

    He further submitted that the prosecution failed to connect the money to any crime and the accused was arrested not because he was a suspect but because he was in possession of money which they considered to be a lot.

    He exposed the Investigating Officer’s incompetence on investigating money laundering and related offences by ignoring to investigate the source of the contested money in order to tag it to a criminal activity. Instead, they focused on the income of Lifeway Pharmaceuticals Ltd without examining the audited accounts to establish the export value of the company in order to appreciate the trade receivables due to the company.

    He explained that as soon as his client was asked what he was carrying, he said he was carrying money which he immediately pulled out and placed on the table without being forced or searched by security at the Airport.

    Emoru told court that his client even asked immigration officers to take him to customs so that he can declare his money because he had evidence at his country home to prove ownership of the contested money but he was instead illegally detained on grounds that it is illegal to carry money across borders.

    “Counsel believes PW5 lied when he pretended not to know the signature of Godfrey Emojong, his unit boss who had written a report exonerating the accused person of money laundering. He criticised PW1, PW2, PW4 and PW5 for purporting to investigate a case of money laundering for which they not only had no mandate but also lacked knowledge of the law relating to cross border movement of currency,” Justice Gidudu quoted counsel Emoru’s submissions in his judgment.

    He added that there was no justification in law by immigration officers to deny the accused person a Visa because he had a valid online Visa, had a valid return ticket and invitation letter and a ticket which could be extended for any period of time once the accused person was in the country because it was valid for one year.

    The judge noted that it was wrong for FIA to seize and bank money on its account without any supportive law explaining that the money was not found by customs to be contraband and was received without being first seized by customs and reported on form 4 under the regulation 10(4) of S1 2015 No. 75.

    “I find that there is no prima facie case made out requiring the court to put the accused on his defence. I acquitted him of the charges. I order that the money deposited on the FIA account amounting to USD289,480 be returned to the accused,” he ruled.

    The judge added, “The same should be declared according to the law and returned to the accused because so far there is no evidence that it was the proceeds of crime.”

    He further ordered that the accused’s passport to be returned to him and any other security deposited in court for his bail be refunded.

     

    By Grapevine Reporter

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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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