KAMPALA, UGANDA: Two former Uganda Revenue Authority employees accused of stealing nearly half a million US dollars from an unnamed South Sudanese, have been released after the court found they were heavily tortured.
Robert Asiimwe Akanga and Stevens Kalemba were supposed to be tried for charges ranging from abuse of office, and theft to committing a felony.
The Director of Public Prosecutions on February 20, 2021, alleged that Akanga and Kalema had stolen $410,000 US dollars, from a South Sudanese national whose name was never revealed in the court record.
According to DailyMonitor, the little the State could reveal about the victim is that he owns a company called GAK Express Co. Limited.
According to court records, the South Sudanese national reported the case to Kawempe Police Station, where it was then referred to the Police Flying Squad Unit, which arrested the duo.
The suspects were taken to the dreaded Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka, Wakiso District, and later taken to the army headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala.
However, the suspects could not be prosecuted after Uganda’s Ant-Corruption Court found that they were tortured by security operatives during and in the wake of the arrest.
After hearing from both sides, Justice Lawrence Gidudu, the head of the Anti–Corruption Court, was left with no option but to let the accused duo walk free.
“The cumulative import of all the circumstances that I have listed above confirm that allegations made by the applicants in regard to their arbitrary arrests and subsequent torture to be true,” said Lawrence.
He added that the rights of the accused were threatened, infringed upon and violated in reference to the country’s constitution.
“The injuries sustained are gruesome to say the least and confirm that there was torture of A1 and A2,” the Judge ruled.
“I am satisfied that the applicants have demonstrated that their non-derogable rights and freedoms were infringed upon, when they were mercilessly battered in the hands of the military that should have had no role in purporting to investigate a criminal case of abuse of office and theft.”
He added; “I hereby declare their trial in criminal session case 1 of 2022 a nullity and acquit them pursuant to Section 11(2) of The Human Rights (Enforcement)Act, 2019.”
Instead, the court has ordered the government to pay more than Shs400 million to the two employees as compensation for torture.
South Sudanese keeping huge cash at foreign homes raise brows
The supposed trial of Akanga and Kalemba, which happened in the wake of another similar robbery involving Ugandan Socialite Charles Olimi also known as Sipapa and his girlfriend has raised questions of why South Sudanese in Uganda opt to keep huge sum of money at homes instead of the banks.
Sipapa was remanded to the infamous Luzira prison along with his partner one Shamira Rukia Nakiyemba, a designer on charges of aggravated robbery.
The couple, according to court records, robbed South Sudan nationals—identified as Jacob Arok Mul and Mary Ateng of $429,000, two mobile phones, an iPhone, silver blue in colour valued at $3,200 (Shs12m), a Samsung phone, and a flat-screen TV (75 inches) valued at $4,000 (Shs15m).
Other valuables that were robbed include an iPhone 11 Pro, dark green in colour valued at Shs800,000, a Dell laptop, a charger valued at $1,000 (Shs3.8m), an Apple Macbook Air laptop computer valued at Shs5m, and an iPhone valued at Shs5m.
The woes of Akanga (a former URA customs officer), Kalemba (a former URA driver) and Sipapa, have brought into sharp focus the trend of South Sudanese nationals opting to reject banks in preference for stashing rather huge sums of cash in their houses,” the Ugandan newspaper writes.
“There’s no law that I’m aware of that stops a person from having big sums of money in cash,” a lawyer whose specialty is in illicit financing, told Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity such that he could speak freely.
“But holding large amounts of cash may be evidence of involvement in illicit criminal activity,” the lawyer added, triggering money laundering allegations.
South Sudan remains one of the leading destinations for Uganda’s exports, with monthly imports from the southern neighbour at 50.6 million US dollars.
Due to institutional weaknesses that highlight illicit financial flows, South Sudan is ranked as a fragile State. It is, in fact, one of the most corrupt jurisdictions in the world as per various studies.
According to an assessment carried out by Monitor, empirical evidence has shown that Uganda and its eastern neighbour Kenya have benefited the most from the mess. The two countries are the destinations or transit points of illicit financial flows from South Sudan.
In 2018, the US Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence told Uganda and Kenya to stop South Sudan political leaders from buying property in their jurisdictions using corruption proceeds.