18 January 2013

Uganda: Basajjabalaba Sent Back to Luzira

Businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba was yesterday forced to spend an unprecedented third night in custody by the Kololo-based Anti-Corruption court.

Basajjabalaba, facing charges of conspiracy to defeat tax laws, was remanded to Luzira prison, pending today's ruling on his bail application. He was arrested at Entebbe International airport on Tuesday on his way to Saudi Arabia. He spent the night in a police cell in Kireka. On Wednesday, Basajjabalaba was charged with three counts of conspiracy to defeat tax law, forgery of a judicial document and uttering a false document.

Prosecution alleges that Basajjabalaba, 45, also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Haba Group (U) Limited, conspired with his young brother Muzamiru, 43, to evade taxes amounting to Shs 20.1bn arising from a compensation payment by the government to Haba. They allegedly committed the offence between 2010 and 2011 in Kampala district.

Haba was compensated Shs 142bn after its purchase of Nakasero, Shauriyaako and St Balikuddembe markets and the Constitution Square was cancelled. Bassajjabala is also accused of forging a consent judgment, on October 6, 2010. The judgment was purportedly entered into by Haba, as a plaintiff, and the Attorney General as the defendant agreeing that the latter's payments to the former of the said Shs 142bn would not be subject to any levies, whereas the award was subject to the tax laws.

Prosecution further alleges in the third count that in 2011, in the case of Haba versus the Commissioner of Uganda Revenue Authority that was filed in the Kampala High court, Basajjabalaba fraudulently uttered the said consent judgment, purporting to have been entered into between Haba and the Attorney General.

After Basajjabalaba pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday, his lawyers, led by Kavuma Kabenge and Julius Turinawe, applied for his bail and presented three sureties. However, State Prosecutor Lillian Omara said she had instructions to oppose the businessman's bail application and requested to do so the following day. Omara also gave notice that she would challenge the credentials of some of the sureties.

When the case came up yesterday, the defence legal team led by Kavuma Kabenge, sought the services of more lawyers who included; Yusuf Nsibambi and Hassan Kamba. The team also got more sureties who included Kassim Ssekabira Basajjabalaba and Nasser Basajjabalaba, both brothers of the accused.

Though Omara agreed that the sureties were more substantial than those presented the previous day, she vehemently opposed the bail application. She said Basajjabalaba was a flight risk because he had refused to honour several police summons since September last year. In reply, Kabenge said police had never served Basajjabalaba himself with the alleged summons as required under criminal law.

After a lengthy argument, Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa adjourned the case and remanded Basajjabalaba for the second day, until today when she will deliver her ruling on the bail application. However, before the case commenced, police took some time battling Basajjabalaba's supporters, who were demonstrating outside the court premises.

The supporters carried manila posters with words taunting the Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura. As Basajjabalaba was driven to Luzira, several of his relatives and supporters were seen weeping.

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