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Court seeks written submissions in MTN CEO deportation case

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | High Court in Kampala has called for written submissions in a case challenging the deportation of Wim Vanhelleputte, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda.

The Belgian was deported on February 14, on the orders of the Internal Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odong making him the fourth employee of the company to be a prohibited immigrant declared under section 52 (g) of the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act.

The section among others stipulates that a person shall be declared a prohibited immigrant as a consequence of information received from reliable sources and confirmed by the Minister or by the commissioner to be an undesirable immigrant.

But Wim sought a judicial review of the process and asked the court to quash the minister’s orders. He argued that the process used by the Minister of Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo to declare him undesirable was highhanded and arbitrary because he was never accorded a fair or just treatment before, during and after the order was made.

He further explained that prior to his deportation he had been summoned thrice, on January 22, January 29 and on February 14, 2019, to appear before the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka where he was interrogated on his connections with MTN staff who had been deported earlier.

These included Italian national Elsa Mussolini, the former General Manager for Mobile Finance Services, French national Olivier Prentout, who was the Chief Marketing Officer at MTN-Uganda and Rwandan national Annie Bilenge Tabura, the General Manager, Sales and Distribution at MTN-Uganda.

In his response, win acknowledged that they were still in contact because the three had not handed over offices at the time of their abrupt deportation, and needed to ensure continuity of company operations. It’s upon the acknowledgement of contact that he was asked to record a statement which was followed by a deportation order.

Documents submitted to the court by his lawyers Birungi and Company Advocates indicated that Wim is married to a Ugandan National, Barbara Adoso, with who they have lived since April 29, 2000. The couple has allegedly known each other since 1993.  The documents show that even when he served in Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Gabon, among other countries, Wim would still come to visit his family in Uganda on a monthly basis.

On Thursday, Senior State Attorney Wanyama Kodoli told Court that the Minister did not need any permission to deport a person from Uganda because the Immigration Act gives him powers to do so. Wanyama also advised that Wim should have appealed against the order, instead of seeking a judicial review.

But presiding judge Henrietta Wolayo asked the two sides to make written submissions on the matter. Wim’s lawyers are expected to have their submissions ready by May 10, while the Attorney General’s submission is expected on June 10. The judgment will then be issued on notice.

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