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Court dismisses Bitature’s application seeking to block SA Firm from auctioning his properties

Justice Mubiru also blamed fellow judge Musa Ssekaana for not having informed his earlier ruling based on evidence on whether Vantage, a foreign company had no capacity to sue Simba Properties

Businessman Patrict Bitature (in set) and some of his prime properties

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The high court commercial division in Kampala has dismissed with costs an application filed by businessman Patrick Bitature in which he sought to block the auctioning his properties in Uganda to recover the $34 million loan debt he owes a South African firm (Vantage Mezzanine Fund).

In a 21-page ruling dated Wednesday 15th June 2022, Justice Stephen Mubiru who heads the Commercial Division said it was unfortunate that Simba Properties (owned by Bitature) sued Counsel Robert Kirunda, Counsel Noah Shamah Wasige of Kirunda and Wasige Advocates, and Bailiff Festus Katerega of Quick Way Auctioneers and Court Bailiff in their individual capacity, yet they were representing a known entity (Vantage) when they advertised their properties for auctioning in the newspapers.

“In the result, I found that a prima facie case had not been established. There were no serious questions of law and fact to be tried by this court to justify the grant of a temporary injunction. The application was thus dismissed with costs to the respondents and the underlying suit was struck out with costs to the defendants,” Justice Mubiru ruled.

He added; “On basis of all the foregoing considerations, I found that this application and the underlying suit were entirely misconceived on account of the fact that they were instituted against agents of a 15 known principal, and on ground that the matters placed in issue in the suit are already the subject of a subsisting arbitral process.”

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“This court had on two occasions before already declared that it will not exercise jurisdiction over the matter in light of the submission to arbitration that is valid, binding, operative and enforceable. I found it unnecessary in the circumstances to consider the rest of the criteria for the grant of a temporary injunction.”

According to the latest court decision, Bitature stands at the verge of losing up to seven (7) of his very prime properties listed by Vantage Mezzanine Fund for sale which among others include; “Elizabeth Apartments” at Kololo in Kampala, “Protea Hotel-Naguru (Sky’s Hotel) in Kampala, and “Moyo Close Apartments,” Kololo gardens in Kampala.

Background of the whole saga

About eight years ago, Vantage Mezzanine extended a credit facility believed to be about $10m to Simba Properties Ltd, among other companies owned by Bitature. But riding on a technicality of Vantage’s legality in Uganda, Bitature and his companies were dragging their feet on clearing the loan, compelling Vantage to begin on a process to auction some of the tycoon’s properties, including Skyz Hotel.

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The tycoon addmited having taken the $10m at the time and said he considered their Mezzanine Term Facility Agreement (MTFA) cheaper and more convenient than money sourced from the conventional lending financial institutions. Bitature, who is clearly hurt and emotionally broken seeing his reputation eroded just like that, further explains that the desired expansion in his businesses was considered necessary because Simba Group anticipated making a lot of money off the country’s nascent oil, gas & petroleum practice.

This is how he opens up on this: “Simba was confident of the economic prospects in the country as Uganda had discovered 6.5 million barrels of oil reserves. Like many other business players in Uganda, we were expecting an economic outturn and therefore in line with our innovative plans, groundbreaking and forward vision, we explored opportunities to generate value in the economy through sustainable investments.”

However, through his lawyers Muwema and Co. Advocates, Bitature had earlier this month sued Vantage legal advisors, Robert Kirunda, Noah Shamah Wasige, Festus Kateregga, and Commissioner Land Registration in a bid to block the sale of his properties.

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