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Toro queen mother’s ‘stolen’ Shs 4.5bn hs 4.5bn

By Independent Investigations

When Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura ordered the arrest of top city lawyer, Bob Kasango on Aug. 26, he believed he was executing an order by the President, Yoweri Museveni. He was wrong.

Kayihura had been told by Toro Queen Mother Best Olimi Kemigisa, who has a money dispute with Kasango, that the President had ordered the arrest.

Earlier that day, the queen mother had met the President on Aug 24 in Jinja. She had spent two nights in the eastern Uganda town trying to get audience with the president in vain. After a lot of maneuvering, the audience was granted.

State House sources say that the President’s protocol officials were shocked when she showed up with two other persons: Jonathan her nephew, who is the personal assistant to her and King Oyo Nyimba Iguru, and a Kampala lawyer, William Byaruhanga..

The President’s protocol officials insisted that only the queen mother would meet the President because she had not informed them about the other two people she was with. However, after a lot of haggling, they yielded. The meeting lasted little more than ten minutes. The president asked what had brought her.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands, Gabindade-Musoke, has stolen my money, she told the President.

Not exactly, intervened her lawyer, Byaruhanga, the government official is innocent. But, Byaruhanga told the President, although the government had paid Kemigisa Shs 4.5 billion for land she sold to the government, her lawyer, Bob Kasango, had walked away with all the money. He went to explain that Kasango not given any money to Kemigisa and that was criminal.

Shocked, the President asked what they wanted him to do. They said to compel Kasango to pay the money by having him arrested. Kemigisa and her lawyer also told the President that Kasango owns properties in Kampala and expensive vehicles that should be impounded and sold to recover money from him.

The President promised to look into the matter and the meeting ended. Upon leaving the meeting, the Queen mother called the President’s Principal Private Secretary (PPS), Grace Akello, informing her that the President had directed the immediate arrest of Kasango and that the PPS should cause that to happen by further communicating the President’s directives to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to cause the arrest. Akello refused. She reasoned that she only takes instructions from the President and not through third parties.

That is when the queen mother called Kayihura and Kasango was arrested.

State House has officially confirmed to The Independent that the President never promised to arrest Kasango nor has he ever instructed Kayihura to do so. When The Independent contacted Kayihura, he confirmed that the President never instructed him to arrest Kasango. Instead, said he had received a call from the queen mother claiming that the President had instructed him to arrest him.

According to Kayihura, he directed the arrest of Kasango after both the queen mother and her lawyers told him the President had ordered the arrest. He said he did not for a while think the queen mother and such senior lawyers would be untruthful with him. What is more, the police also reported Kasango to have been elusive and that he could not be reached by phone or in his office. Yet during this time, Kasango was available on his phones. In fact Kayihura told The Independent that he had held a meeting with Kasango on other official matters in his (IGP’s) office “two or three days” before he was arrested.

Inside story

Kasango told The Independent that even before it happened, he was aware William Byaruhanga was working to have him arrested. “He had been telling everyone who cared to listen and people who are impressed by such gossip that they have finished me this time. They spoke to everyone else except me. They even told my clients they were taking me to prison and that they should find other lawyers.”

It wasn’t the first time. Kasango said Byaruhanga’s partner, Andrew Kasirye went to CID headquarters in Kibuli sometime in May 2010 to register a criminal case against him and have him arrested.

“The CID was very professional and asked him to present documents and a statement from the complainant,” Kasango said, “Sensing that he would not get the extra-judicial embarrassment he desired for me, they dropped that line and instead elected to go and tell lies to the President and IGP.”

This time, Kasango, says that on the Aug. 11, after being approached by many responsible persons and clients who were concerned that William Byaruhanga was talking excessively ill of him and promising to send him to jail over the case, he decided to ask the queen mother about it.

He says he visited the queen mother at her residence in Munyonyo in the evening and in their conversation, she denied having any intentions to have him arrested and even challenged him if she had reported any matter to any police.

Instead, according to Kasango, she told him that it was the lawyers who were exerting pressure on her to have Kasango arrested.  She revealed that the lawyers had given her several documents which they said were to pin Kasango.

Kasango said: “The Queen mother told me the lawyers had said to her, “we have given you bwino (a local slang for documentary evidence), now you should squeeze him. Have him arrested, he will bring money.

“She did not tell me what documents the lawyers had volunteered to her, but after the story was broken that I forged a letter, I formed the conviction that the forged letter is one of the documents. My conviction is buttressed by some other information a person close to William Byaruhanga volunteered to my wife regarding Byaruhanga’s role in having me arrested and what lengths, together with the queen mother they had gone to have me arrested regardless of the truth.”

When The Independent put this accusation to Andrew Kasirye, he denied having anything personal against Kasango but admitted that it was wrong on their part not to have written to Kasango demanding accountability on behalf of their client. “We believed the queen mother,” Kasirye says, “and if it is true that Kasango paid her, then she lied to us and that was wrong and unfair of her to us and to Kasango.” When The Independent revealed to Kasirye that they are in possession of authenticated bank documents indicating large payments amounting to about Shs 3 billion made by Kasango to the queen mother or to third parties on her behalf, Kasirye answered, “Then she is a liar and that is why we withdrew from the case because we discovered that there is something personal between her and Kasango and not just money and she was using us to fight her battles.”

Queen mother’s testimony

Andrew Kasirye, a senior partner in the law firm, Kasirye, Byaruhanga & Company Advocates, told The Independent that the Queen mother told him that she had not received any money from Kasango. “She told me this several times,” he told The Independent. “Even when newspapers reported that she had received money, I called her to express our concerns. She insisted that she had never received even a coin from Kasango.”

More intriguing, the queen mother wrote to the Attorney General (AG) advising that Kasango is instructed to collect money on her behalf. Yet according to Kasirye, the queen mother told them, as her lawyers, that she never gave Kasango any instructions to collect money on her behalf. She said the letter to the AG was a forgery.

But Gabindade wrote to Kemigisa’s lawyers saying that the queen mother had instructed him to pay all the money to Kasango’s law firm, Hall & Partners and also confirmed that the queen mother even talked to him about the matter and confirmed that Hall & Partners should receive the money on her behalf.

In her statement to the police, which was recorded in her house in the presence of her lawyers, the queen mother positively reiterated her claim that Kasango has not paid her any money from the proceeds of the sale of her land.

When Andrew Mwenda, the Managing Editor of The Independent, who is related to Kemigisa and is also Kasango’s business partner visited her, the Queen mothertold him that Kasango had paid her “some little money” – about Shs 400 million only – after the first release of her funds. When asked how much money she believes Kasango owed her, she said she did not know.

Because of the conflicting information from the queen mother, her lawyers felt that they could not continue to represent her.

First, newspapers had reported that she had received some money yet she was claiming to have received nothing. Secondly, she was denying ever writing to the Attorney General instructing him to pay her money to Kasango yet Gabindade confirmed that she actually did. This record convinced her lawyers that even the Gabindade letter she claims Kasango forged may not be a genuine claim.

Lawyers quit

The queen mother’s lawyers have since quit the case and the matter is in court. However, Kasango’s arrest raises several questions. Do the police investigate before they arrest or they arrest and then investigate? Does the statement of a complainant amount to evidence upon which a suspect should be arrested? Who should be responsible for the irresponsible acts of certain public officials? These questions raise serious competence and credibility issues for the police. Taxpayers ought to be concerned that when public officers like the police err and the government is sued, the taxpayer picks the sometimes huge bill.

The Independent has also learnt that Byaruhanga has offered to discuss the matter with Kasango and offer an apology if it is true Kasango paid the queen mother. To that Kasango said, “Yes it is true some mutual friends have attempted to mediate in the matter and said to me that William is ready to apologize if the queen mother lied to them. But what does the apology serve me? The damage is done and done extensively and badly. His apology serves no useful purpose to me”.

Kasango, who spoke very emotionally, said: Byaruhanga said of me, words laced with acid and bitter lies, nothing he does can take that back. He came with the queen mother and Andrew Kasirye to me while I was in custody, they came at midnight in the company of my wife and demanded that unless I pay them Shs.2 billion by Aug. 31 2010 and refund all the legal fees I was paid within six months, the President had directed Maj. Gen Kayihura never to release me. I signed for them what they wanted knowing I would challenge it and only because my wife was in tears. How can I sit to talk to such people? Andrew Kasirye on his part is a former President of the Uganda Law Society and his behavior in this matter to me was to be polite, crude and malicious. Byaruhanga has made it his top agenda to fight me and he has done this in three different cases. He has gone to the extent of signing a Retainer Agreement with one of my client with the full knowledge that I was representing the same client and had a retainer agreement too. In this particular matter of Kemigisa, he approached her thrice, convincing her to take away instrutions from me and give them to him. On each occasion she told me the full discussion they had but I ignored Byaruhanga. I was wrong, I should have taken action against him and have him disciplined by the Law Council.

“I am finding it very hard to forgive and Our Lord’s Prayer makes more sense to me than ever before – lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. The temptation to revenge and do evil to the queen mother and her lawyers is almost unbearable but I am strengthened in my belief in a Higher Being and that everything in life happens for a reason. I am asking God to reveal that reason to me but it’s taking a little long”.

Did Kasango pay Queen Mother?

Kemigisa instructed Kasango to represent her in the matter by a letter dated October 18, 2006, a copy of which The Independent has seen. On the December 5, 2006, Kasango and Kemigisa executed two Retainer Agreements for legal fees – one for Shs.1 billion and the other for Shs.600 million; total Shs 1.6 billion, that is, 35 percent of proceeds from the sale.

The queen mother’s instructions to Kasango were to pursue the undertaking by the government to purchase land from the queen mother. The land was valued at Shs 4.5 billion.

The transaction between the queen mother and the government had been going on since 2002. At the time, the queen mother had retained a different law firm to represent her. No progress had been made and she was frustrated. Kasango was recommended to her as a lawyer who could make things move.

“When I first met her over this matter in September 2006, it was clear to me that she was frustrated and almost depressed by the lack of movement on the matter,” Kasango said to The Independent, “The president had given three written instructions that her payments be made, and even given deadlines when the payment should be made but nothing had happened.

“I did not at the time know why. My job was therefore not just to get her paid but to manage both her frustration and expectation, and more crucially, to impress it upon her that it was not just her who had not been paid, the queue is long and nobody has anything personal against her.”

The Independent has established the queen mother also authorized Kasango to receive the money and deduct his fees directly. This is reduced in the retainer agreements signed by Kasango and Kemigisa on December 5, 2006.

Kasango and Kemigisa established a relationship of mutual trust. According to both Kasango and Kemigisa, they were good friends.

“Bob is a very intelligent young man from who I sought very valuable advice on many issues and we had a good working relationship,” Kemigisa in particular told The Independent’s Managing Editor, “ I became frustrated with him when I could not access him easily or anymore. I used to speak to him at least twice a week, then suddenly he cut off communication. He was unreachable and that was frustrating. I did not want this matter to get this far, but I could not find him so that we could sit and discuss amicably.”

When The Independent put this accusation to Kasango, he expressed surprise.

“The queen mother was my client and friend and we had a mutually respectful relationship. I did what I was meant to do – recover her money and passed it on to her. At that point, I was in constant touch with her and once that was done, I had no obligation to keep in constant touch with her,” Kasango said.

He added: “What she did not tell you is that my cutting telephone contact and physical meetings with her had to do with her attempt at convincing me to do something which was manifestly illegal and criminal in respect of this transaction.

“First she tried to get me to be part of a conspiracy to steal the Certificates of Title from Government and give them back to her and then she tried to make a second claim for compensation in respect of the same land and exerted so much pressure on me to be engaged in that criminal scheme. For both transactions, I found them professionally revolting and morally unacceptable but also practically impossible although she said to me she had people in government who had said to her it was possible.”

In the interview with The Independent, Kasango insisted that he owed the queen mother no money at all but instead she owed him monies he had advanced to her prior to the payments by the government.

The Independent has confirmed with authenticated bank documents that Kasango paid Kemigisa monies which together with the agreed legal fees amount to Shs 4.3 billion. This is based on documentary evidence provided, not by Kasango, but by banks.

Kasango told The Independent he had officially written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and attached all copies of payments made to the queen mother before the charges were sanctioned. At his indictment in court, Kasango referred to the charges as nonsensical. These charges, he told The Independent, “are only for their nuisance value and meant to embarrass me”.

So why does the queen mother insist on saying she received nothing?  That is the question baffling many. Kasango says he knows the answer and, since he is now in court, he will say it in court for all to hear.

“I am not baffled by what she is saying because people go mad and greed can drive even the sane to behave in ways you least expect. What baffles me is why the police did what they did to me and why did the DPP’s office think this is a case they will win or worth taking to court?”

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