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Legal Brains Trust sues DPP over Basajjabalaba Shs142b corruption case

The suit comes months after DPP Abodo dropped the corruption charges against the businessman over what she described as incomplete investigations and government ‘losing interest’ in the multi-billion case.

A photo combo showing businessman Hassan Bassajabala (L) and DPP Jane Frances Abodo (R) (Photo/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Legal Brains Trust (LBT), a Kampala-based rights watchdog has sued the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) asking to reinstate multi-billion graft charges against businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba and his younger brother Muzamiru Basajjabalaba.

This comes months after DPP Jane Frances Abodo dropped the corruption charges against the businessman over what she described as incomplete investigations and government ‘losing interest’ in the multi-billion case.

LBT in its suit seen by this website wants the High court’s Anti-Corruption division to declare the court proceedings based on by DPP to exempt the Basajjabalaba brothers as “secretive,” infringed or threatened a bundle of rights enshrined in articles 28(1), 28(5), 29(1)(a), and 44(c) of the Constitution, and are, therefore, unlawful and invalid.

The law-firm also argues that the Constitutional court and the Supreme court threw out the petition that Basajjabalaba had used to challenge the trial, and therefore, accuses the DPP and the registrar of the Anti-Corruption court of unjustifiably delaying or refusing to cause the resumption of prosecution and expedited trial of the two brothers, despite having gotten the green light from the apex court more than a year ago, on November 19, 2021.

Ms Isabella Nakiyonga, LBT’s legal officer who filed an affidavit in support of the suit says on December 5, 2022, the registrar of the Anti-Corruption court was forced to notify her organization that the DPP had withdrawn the charges “by way of a nolle prosequi [an entry in the court record to the effect that the plaintiff or prosecutor will not proceed] dated August 30, 2022,” which was presented to the court on October 6, 2022, whereupon “a notification of the discharge was issued to the accused persons on October 7, 2022.”

“The alleged proceedings of Oc- tober 6 and October 7, 2022, were unjustifiably impromptu, in camera, and ex parte. Moreover, they are blatantly inchoate and therefore null and void,” says Nakiyonga in her affidavit.

Last month on December 15, 2022, LBT petitioned the DPP, outlining its contentions and grievances and the redress sought in relation to Basajjabalaba’s corruption case, but she says the contentions were uncontroverted and grievances unredressed.

“The first respondent [Jane Frances Abodo] did not even contact the applicant’s [ LBT] personnel to acknowledge the complaint, yet she found time to discuss the matters raised by the applicant in the news media,” Nakiyonga adds in her affidavit.

Consequently, LBT now wants the High Court to specifically direct the DPP and the registrar of the Anti-Corruption Court to issue summonses requiring the personal attendance of the Basajjabalabas and the witnesses that the DPP had earlier listed in the case to attend the trial not later than two weeks from the date of the court’s ruling.

“An order expediting trial in this court’s criminal case No. 3 of 2013 [Uganda v. Hassan Basajjabalaba and Muzamiru Basajjabalaba], including the suspension of any matter or matters pending before it and sitting from day to day (even be- yond 5 p.m.), including on Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays,” the suit demands in one of the prayers.

The lawsuit also comes barely a month after Counsel Isaac Ssemakadde, the chief executive officer of LBT, slammed the DPP for dropping the charges against the businessman, and despite the latter responding with a promise to reinstate them, no timeline was given when this was to be done.

Case Background

The multi-billion corruption case was withdrawn by DPP in August 2022 after tendering in a nolle prosequi, with the brothers being discharged in October.

The charges arose from the government’s cancellation of Basajjabalaba’s lease contracts to develop several markets and other facilities around Kampala City for which he was compensated Shs142b for the loss.

However, after being compensated, a private citizen started a private prosecution of the businessmen, accusing them of defeating payment of taxes arising out of the huge compensation before the DPP took over the matter.

LBT then sued Basajjabalaba, alongside his five companies: Haba Group, Victoria International Trading Company, Sheila Investments, Yudaya International Limited, and the First Merchant International Trading Company.

During the June 11 and June 13, 2019 hearings, the court heard that between January 2000 and December 2011, Mr Basajjabalaba and his companies entered into contracts with Kampala City Council to manage, own and redevelop Owino, Nakasero and Shauliyako markets, and the Constitutional Square, but the said contracts were entered into without the advice of the Attorney General.

The prosecution further alleged that in 2011, in the High court case of Haba versus the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority, Basajjabalaba fraudulently uttered the said consent judgment.

In May 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled and directed the Basajjabalaba brothers to stand trial before the Anti-Corruption Court on grounds that their trial wasn’t unconstitutional since the said charges fall under the ambit of the Anti-Corruption Act.

The Basajjabalaba brothers had challenged their prosecution before the Anti-Corruption Court, citing a number of alleged constitutional breaches and had asked the Constitutional Court to quash it.

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