Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Chaos unfolded at the Supreme Court in Kampala Thursday morning as businessman Hamis Kiggundu demanded to be heard in his pending application in a case in which, he seeks to recover Shillings 120 billion from Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) Uganda and Kenya.
Kiggundu’s lawyers, led by Fred Muwema, argued in the application that DTB had introduced new grounds during the appeal process, and they sought judgment on the admission that DTB operated without a required license, resulting in the fraudulent withdrawal of funds from their client’s bank accounts. During a pretrial hearing before Justice Elizabeth Musoke, the DTB lawyers, led by Edwin Karugire, contended that the application was irrelevant as the main appeal was heard in November 2021.
Karugire explained that a panel, consisting of Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Faith Mwondha, Percy Night Tuhaise, Mike Chibita, and the late Opio Aweri, had reviewed the case. Karugire further mentioned that a new panel, including Justice Musota, was formed after Aweri’s death and that Kiggundu’s lawyers had nothing additional to contribute during the submission process. In response, Muwema clarified that the hearing was intended for administrative matters and argued that DTB’s submissions revealed admissions of illegal operations without a license and raised new grounds.
He stated that they had written to the court on May 2nd, 2023, demanding a hearing of their application and entry of judgment on admission, but they were informed that they would only be entertained regarding the new panel. The Supreme Court Registrar had assured them of a new hearing date for their specific application, but their attempts to follow up had been unsuccessful.
Karugire expressed surprise that they had not received a copy of the Registrar’s letter and emphasized that, as parties to the case, they should have been served with it. Justice Musoke clarified that she was not part of the panel but had been informed that the judgment in the main appeal was ready and would be delivered on Tuesday, June 13th, 2023.
She mentioned that Muwema had been asked if he had anything to add during the concluded hearing, to which he had responded negatively. Considering that the points raised in the application might be covered in the main appeal, she advised Muwema to await the judgment. Muwema insisted on being heard and requested to meet the head of the panel, prompting Kiggundu to storm out of the court, followed by his supporters.
Outside the court, they voiced their dissatisfaction, accusing Karugire of using his relation to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to influence the court’s decisions. After a brief commotion, Kiggundu returned and interrupted Justice Musoke as she was addressing Muwema about controlling his client’s behavior. Muwema denied that his client had brought hooligans into court.
The judge then inquired about Kiggundu’s whereabouts, suggesting that he might be responsible for the disturbance. Kiggundu attempted to whisper to Muwema, but the judge ordered him to stop, leading Kiggundu to assert his rights as a qualified lawyer and his entitlement to be heard. Muwema remained dissatisfied, expressing his intention to meet the Chief Justice, even on a Sunday if necessary, as courts handling presidential election matters were known to sit on Sundays.
However, the judge reiterated that the judgment would be delivered on Tuesday, June 13th, 2023, as previously communicated by the head of the panel. Some of Kiggundu’s supporters believe that they would not receive justice in the matter due to the current Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s involvement in Karugire’s law firm.
The pending judgment in the Supreme Court stems from a series of legal proceedings initiated by businessman Kiggundu against Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) Uganda and DTB Kenya. The case originated from a syndicated banking agreement between Ham Enterprises Ltd and Kiggs International Ltd, and the two banks.
In October 2020, Commercial Court Judge Henry Peter Adonyo ruled in favor of Kiggundu, ordering DTB Uganda to refund all funds deducted from his accounts. It was alleged that these deductions were made without Kiggundu’s consent. Records presented to the court revealed that Kiggundu had obtained loans totaling over Shillings 120 billion from DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya between 2011 and 2016 to finance his real estate business.
The dispute arose when the banks claimed that Kiggundu had failed to fulfill his loan obligations, amounting to Shillings 39 billion, as per the agreed terms. They threatened to seize the mortgaged properties. Kiggundu petitioned the commercial court, arguing that the withdrawn funds exceeded the outstanding loan amount, as he had already made full repayment.
Represented by Fred Muwema, Kiggundu sought to strike out the banks’ defenses and obtain an order for the refund of unlawfully obtained funds. Justice Adonyo dismissed the banks’ defense and directed them to refund the money, along with an 8% interest rate and the costs of the suit.
Displeased with the decision, the banks sought relief from the Principal Judge, Dr. Flavian Zeija, who granted an order to stay the execution of Adonyo’s orders. This prevented Kiggundu from recovering the funds. Subsequently, the banks appealed to the Court of Appeal. In a subsequent ruling, the Court of Appeal overturned Judge Adonyo’s order and ordered a retrial before a different judge. Dissatisfied with this decision, Kiggundu lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The pending judgment in the Supreme Court will ultimately determine the outcome of Kiggundu’s appeal and the resolution of the ongoing legal battle between Kiggundu and DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.