Nicholas Opiyo’s money laundering case adjourned to April 30

The Anti-Corruption Court has deferred hearing of the money laundering charges against city lawyer Nicholas Opiyo to April 30.

Grade One Magistrate Moses Nabende made the decision at the request of state attorney Steven Ariong, who asked the court for more time to finalise the investigations in the matter.

“This court notes that this matter is fairly new. I however find that the state has failed to state clearly the time it needs to expedite the investigations. I therefore give the DPP up to April 30, which will be exactly four months since the accused was formally charged in court to finalise the investigations in the matter,” Nabende ruled.

Opiyo, also the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, a local human rights advocacy NGO was arrested on December 22 from kamwokya over allegations of money laundering but is currently out on bail.

Prosecution alleges that on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City branch in Kampala district, Opiyo purportedly acquired $340,000 (about sh1.2b) through ABSA Account Number 60040780445 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time that said funds were proceeds of crime.  

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What the Law Says   

Section 3 (c) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2013 and amended in 2017 prohibits any person from intentionally acquiring, possessing, using or administering property, knowing, at the time of receipt, that the property is the proceeds of crime.   

Section 116 states that a person who engages in any act of money laundering prohibited in section 3 commits an offence while Section 8 (2) requires NGOs such as Chapter Four, transacting sh20m and above to record the said transactions on the day the transaction happened and maintain the same for a period 10 years.   

Section 8(5) further requires NGOs to file the said transactions with the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) every seven days.   

The troublesome cash     

In a statement issued immediately after the arrest of Opiyo, Chapter Four board member Stephen Tumwesigye stated that the alleged $340,000 is a routine grant that they have received for the last five years from American Jewish World Service (AJWS).  

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Mr. Sydney Asubo, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) executive director however maintains that NGOs have obligations to comply with certain provisions of the Act, an obligation he purports Chapter Four failed to honour.

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