20 April 2017

Uganda: State Opens Fresh Charges Against Suspended Minister Kabafunzaki

Photo: Abubaker Lubowa/Daily Monitor
Suspended junior minister for Labour Herbert Kabafunzaki at the Anti-Corruption Court on on April 12.

Kampala — The State yesterday added one more charge against the former junior minister for Labour, Herbert Kabafunzaki, who is already facing allegations of soliciting and receiving a bribe.

According to the amended charge sheet, it is alleged that Mr Kabafunzaki conspired to commit a felony with his political assistant contrary to section 390 of the Penal Code Act. The minister who is currently out on bail pleaded not guilty to the new charge at the Anti-Corruption Court. "Not true your honour..," he said in court.

This brings to four the number of corruption-related charges Mr Kabafunzaki is facing. He is accused of receiving a Shs5m bribe from Aya Group chairman Mohammed Hamid in exchange for "clearing" him of allegations of sexually harassing his former female employee at Hilton Hotel.

The particulars of the new charge are that on April 8, 2017, he conspired with his political assistant Brian Mugabo to receive a gratification of Shs5m from Hamid so as to help clear his name.

The old charges include two counts of corruption contrary to section 2(a) and 26 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2009, and one count of conspiracy to commit a felony with Bruce Lubowa, the third suspect on the charge sheet.

In a related development, Mugabo yesterday made a U-turn and pleaded not guilty to the earlier charge of being an accessory after fact. The 21-year-old had on his previous appearance pleaded guilty to having ran away with the bribe money which had allegedly been handed to the minister by Hamid in a bid to help the minister escape the long arm of the law. He voluntarily offered to be turned into a State witness and testify against the former junior minister. Chief Magistrate Agnes Alum had set yesterday as the date on which to pass its sentence against Mugabo. However, Mugabo is reported to have sworn an affidavit in Luzira Prison stating that he did not understand the charges at his maiden court appearance and needed to change his plea from guilty to not guilty.

"I am the accused in the above matter. I seek indulgence of court to change the plea of guilty that was entered by court," Mugabo said in his affidavit.

"I did not understand the charges as read to me by court and I had spent more than 48 hours in police detention thus suffered massive duress and stress." The law allows a suspect to change his/her plea before court has pronounced a sentence.

Mugabo was denied bail and further remanded over lack of substantial sureties.

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