KAMPALA, UGANDA: Government of Uganda through the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has dropped all charges of money laundering it had slapped against human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo.
In a withdrawal notice dated September 10th, 2021 with the Resident State Attorney (in Anti-corruption), the Regional Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) officer Kampala Metropolitan Police Eastern region in copy, DPP Justice Jane Frances Abodo informed the Chief Magistrate Anti-Corruption Court that she had decided to withdraw the case against Opiyo.
“This is to inform court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue proceedings against Opiyo Nicholas charged with Money Laundering C/S 3(c) 116 and 131 (1) a, of the Anti-Money Laundering act as amended,” Abodo said.
The withdrawal of the charges comes days after the High Court had last week given the government seven days until Wednesday this week (September 15th) to complete investigating the corruption case brought against human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo or have the charges against him terminated.
To that effect, the presiding magistrate, Moses Nabende, discontinued the said charges against Mr Opiyo and freed him.
“It’s hereby ordered that proceedings against the accused person, (Opiyo Nicholas) charged with money laundering, are discontinued by virtue of the withdraw form serial no. 1547 dated September 10. The accused person (Mr Opiyo) is discharged accordingly,” he held.
The magistrate further ordered the State to refund Shs15m which Mr Opiyo had deposited as one of the conditions for his release earlier this year.
Nicholas Opiyo, the Executive Director of the suspended Chapter Four Uganda organization was in December 2020 arrested from a restaurant in Kamwokya and charged with money laundering.
The prosecution had alleged that Mr Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District, acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.
Mr Opiyo through his lawyers complained that since January, the prosecution has been updating court of how investigations into his case are in progress without being concluded.
He contended that the delay to prosecute his case has infringed on his right to a fair and speedy trial provided in Article 28 (1) of the Constitution.
In response to the application, the prosecution argued that their investigations were hampered by the Covid lockdown.
However, Mr David F. Mpanga, the lawyer representing Mr Opiyo, rejected the prosecution’s explanation on ground that banks remained open throughout the lockdown.
Speaking shortly after the withdrawal, Ms Jacquelyn Okui, the spokesperson of the office of the DPP said: “Upon reviewing the case file, the DPP noted the need for additional evidence; both national and transnational before committal which could not be secured within the timeline given by the court.”
“Therefore, she (DPP Abodo) found it prudent to withdraw the matter from the court for these evidential areas to be cleared before taking a final prosecutorial decision,” she added.