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DPP takes over $26m legal dispute between Bitatures and South African moneylender

Ugandan businessman Patrick Bitature. PHOTO/FILE

Kampala, (UG): In a fresh twist of events, the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has officially taken over the prosecution of a case in which Ugandan businessman Patrick Bitature and his wife Carol Nzaro battle a $26m commercial dispute with South African moneylender Vantage Mezzanine Fund 11 Partnership.

The chief State Attorney, Ms Joan Keko Tuesday told court on Tuesday that the DPP has officially taken over the case in the presence of all parties and asked that the private prosecutor furnish the DPP’s office with all the necessary documents and information on the matter, for purposes of further investigations and acquainting themselves with evidence to rely on during the hearing.

“It is after the receipt of the said documents that we shall make authoritative submissions on the way forward regarding the prosecution of this case,” Ms Keko remarked.

Bitature, wife summoned

Meanwhile, Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Ronald Kayizzi also issued criminal summons against Bitature and his wife to answer charges related to fraud and asked the pair to jointly appear in court on March 5, 2024.

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The summons followed a submission by Bitature’s lawyer Robert Friday Kagoro who claimed the accused persons were not served and are unaware of the charges against them.

“They (accused) have been hearing about the same through social media and in the premises. Since the state has taken over prosecution, my request is that the accused need to know the charges against them,” Kagoro submitted.

The magistrate issued the fresh summons noting that “there is no evidence of service to prove that the accused persons were served with the [initial] criminal summons.”

Earlier, lawyer Lillian Zambu who represented private prosecutor Robert Kirunda, told court that “the documents required for the care were received a day before, unless there are other documents.”

She added that they are available to provide more documents but emphasized that a letter and files were forwarded to Workers House.

On January 8 this year, High Court Justice Rosette Comfort ordered the commencement of a private criminal prosecution of the businessman and his wife, starting with the sanctioning of the charge sheet within five days from the date of her ruling.

Case Background

The South African-based firm zeroed down on fraud charges against the Bitatures based on Section 309 of the Penal Code Act which provides that any person who conspires with another or any fraudulent means to affect the market price of anything publicly sold, or to defraud the public, whether a particular person or to extort from any person commits an offense.

According to the brief facts of the matter, its alleged that on or about December 11, 2014 at Diamond Trust Building along Kampala Road, Simba Properties Investment Company, a company ultimately and beneficially owned by Bitature and his wife, borrowed $10,000,000 (about Shs360b) from Vantage Mezzanine Fund, pursuant to a written mezzanine facility agreement.

The Bitatures in turn, offered their shares in several of their companies such as Linda Properties Ltd, Elgon Terrace Ltd, Simba Properties Investment Company Ltd and Simba Telecom Ltd, collectively referred to as Simba Companies.

The Bitatures were shareholders in the aforementioned companies directly or indirectly.

It is alleged that the Bitatures, being directors and ultimate shareholders of Simba Companies then, with full knowledge and intent to defraud the South African company and other creditors, altered the shareholding of Simba Companies.

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According to the South African Company that is set to be the private prosecutor in this matter, the actions of the businessman and his wife, were in contravention of Section 323 of the Penal Code as they allegedly committed fraud contrary to Section 323, issued false annual returns in respect of the companies contrary to section 309.

Additional Reporting by Monitor

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