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Court orders prisons to allow lawyers access pension scam convicts

Convicts appearing in court via video conferencing. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Court of Appeal Justices have directed the Uganda Prison Services to allow lawyers representing four people convicted of theft of 15.4 billion shillings pension funds to access them in prison.

The convicts who were handed sentences ranging from nine to 16 years by the Anti-Corruption Court Judge Margaret Tibulya in 2018 are; lawyer Bob Kasango who is serving a sixteen-year sentence, former Public Service Ministry Permanent Secretary Jimmy Lwamafa, the former Commissioner in Charge of Compensation Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa who were all handed a nine-year custodial sentence and Christopher Obey, the former Principal Accountant who is serving a 14-year jail term.

They were found guilty for conspiring to forge a court order, a certificate of taxation and a certificate of costs directing the Attorney General to pay Kasango’s defunct law firm Hall and Partners 15.4 billion shillings which was meant for pension and gratuity of more than 6,340 pensioners between 2011 and 2012.

But all of them were not happy with the entire decision of the Anti-Corruption Court and they decided to challenge it in the Court of Appeal so that it can be quashed. The appeal was coming up for hearing yesterday.

But a Panel of three Court of Appeal Justices led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire directed the Uganda Prisons Services to allow the lawyers of the convicts to access prison to first sort out some legal and technical issues with them.

Other Justices on the panel are Muzamir Mutangula Kibeedi and Remmy Kasule.

The order followed an application by the lawyers of the convicts who argued that they last met with their clients in February 2020.

The lawyers led by John Isabirye who was also representing lawyer Evans Ochieng said it has been very difficult to meet their clients in this situation of COVID-19 where inmates are not allowed to go to court and lawyers not allowed to visit prisons.

He said they had written several letters to the Commissioner general of prisons but there was no response to them.

Court heard that the case is of high magnitude to their clients and it involves huge fines and sentences and that it would be important if they met them physically by all means.

The Defense lawyers argued further that they wanted to verify if they still had instructions to represent the convicts. But on this, the Justices asked the convicts who were appearing via video conferencing to confirm if those were still their lawyers and they confirmed that it was true save for Kasango who is representing himself.

The Defense also said it’s necessary to harmonize the two appeals because Kasango had filed his alone yet the facts are related to the ones of his co-convicts.

The Chief State Attorney Moses Stanley Baine didn’t have objections to the request. He noted that the office of the DPP was also wondering how they should respond to the appeals because Kasango had filed all the necessary documentation for appeal on his part but there was nothing for them to respond to on the part of the remaining three convicts who had not filed the grounds of the appeal.

Resultantly, the Justices have also directed that the lawyers access prisons within this week and then the convicts file their written submissions a week after before the State responds to it. The court ordered all the parties to return to court on November 27th 2020 to make highlights of the appeal.

Lwamafa, Obey and Kunsa who are suffering a stroke since February 2020, the Court of Appeal confirmed their conviction in a different case of irregular budgeting of 88.2 billion shillings during the financial years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.

They were found guilty by the Anti-Corruption Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu who said they indicated that the money was civil servants contribution to NSSF well knowing that government workers are not required to contribute to NSSF.

For the offences arising from this, they are now serving sentences ranging from three to ten years after benefiting slightly form the appeal about nine years ago.

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