Kampala city socialite Latifah Shanita Namuyimbwa aka Bad Black yesterday began her four-year prison sentence for embezzling Shs 11bn from Davishan Development Company, which she co-owned with her former British lover, 53-year-old David Greenhalgh. She was jointly convicted with co-accused, Meddie Sentongo, of two counts of conspiracy to defraud the same company of Shs 9bn and $ 1.77m.
For these two counts, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, sentenced the duo to 18 months' imprisonment each, which sentences shall run concurrently.
"It is a declared policy to attract investment to Uganda. But foreign investment requires partnership with local players [who] should be seen to act with impeccable integrity and utmost trust," Justice Bamugemereire said.
"We cannot build the trust of people whose financial resources our economy requires if local partners engage in behaviour that puts the investments at risk. . . It is important that those who have been fortunate to be entrusted with stewardship of both public and private resources act in the best interest of those on whose behalf they are principals."
The judge noted that the case, which has captivated the public and media for months, "is a sad tale and reflection of the breakdown of key tenets of our society."
And, beyond punishing Namuyimbwa and Sentongo for their crimes, the sentences Justice Bamugemereire issued were intended to pass a clear message to Ugandans who seek to gain underserved wealth through fraudulent means and other people's sweat.
"The learned state attorney [prosecutor, Paul Lakidi] highlighted the growing trend in the country for people to aspire to get rich quick. This group is fast growing into a large and lucrative industry. This court would like to send out a clear signal that such bad business practices will not be tolerated . . . This court will not take lightly the growing decline in public morals and social values," the judge announced.
However, to the relief of the shocked convicts, she spared them from having to pay back the money, arguing that evidence had shown that Greenhalgh did not exercise sufficient due diligence in the selection of development partners, or put in place measures and controls to safeguard his investments. Furthermore, no asset recovery investigation was conducted to verify the convicts' possession of ill-gotten assets upon which recovery orders could be made.
Namuyimbwa, a mother of three, including a two-month-old baby, had earlier, on Monday, let The Observer in on what she would miss most in the event that she were convicted: socializing in clubs, her two older children (the baby inadvertently goes to prison with her), her mother, making money, her new boyfriend and returning to school. Namuyimbwa dropped out of school in senior two and says she had intended to enroll in one of the secondary schools in Kampala.
The convicts' lawyers said their clients intend to appeal against the conviction and sentence, a right they are entitled to exercise within 14 days.