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Uganda: DPP, police clear investors in Shs870b botched Utl deal

Kampala. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has cleared four businessmen of charges of forgery and attempted laundering of Euro200m (Shs870b) in a failed deal to buy Uganda Telecom Ltd (Utl).

Mr Marcos Al-Ameen Starimona, Mr Solo Chaplain and Mr Vadrevu Srivivasa R. Rao have been under police investigations for a year for attempted money laundering while Mr Marius Ntamagara has been under inquiry for forgery of government documents to facilitate the same deal.

According to an October 15 letter by the principal assistant to DPP, Ms Betty Khisa, to the Director of Criminal Investigations, the actions of the businessmen did not amount to money laundering since no money moved into the country.

“From the evidence on file, there is a possibility that the suspects may have intended to launder money into the country.

No money, however, entered the country nor do we have concrete evidence that money was moving into the country.

On the evidence, a prosecution for attempted laundering or any predicate offence to laundering would be futile as it would not be sustained,” Ms Khisa wrote.

She said the case file should be closed, but advised Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) to continue monitoring the activities of the businessmen “for any future attempt to launder money into the country.”

The money was to be transferred from financial institutions in Brazil and Germany to Uganda.

Although the CID spokesperson, Mr Vincent Ssekatte, did not readily have details of the status of the case, officers, who investigated the case, confirmed they found no evidence to incriminate the quartet.

The criminal investigations began on August 2, 2017 when the executive director of Financial Intelligence Authority, Mr Sydney Asubo, lodged a complaint at CID after detecting suspected money laundering on pretext that they were buying shares in Utl.

According to police investigations, Mr Starimona and Mr Chaplain through their company, Dragon Progress Holdings Ltd, intended to buy shares in Utl and they were due to sign a memorandum of understanding with Finance Ministry officials.

The CID documents show that they claimed that Euro200m (Shs870b) had been wired to their accounts in Barclays Bank account in the names of Afrimbex CMS Investments (U) Ltd.

Two letters, purportedly written by Ms Betty Kasimbazi, the under-secretary in the Finance ministry, introduced Mr Ntamagara, a proprietor of Afrimbex, in partnership with Dragon Progress Holdings firm of Hong Kong, China.

But Ms Kasimbazi denied writing the letters, although Mr Ntamagara insisted during investigations that the under-secretary authored the letters.

When FIA officials crosschecked with the banks where the businessmen said they had deposited the money, they found no funds, which prompted the arrest of Mr Ntamagara, Mr Starimona and Mr Chaplain as they met government officials to sign a contract.

Background

Daily Monitor a year ago reported about the arrest, culminating in the year-long inquiries following which both the DPP and police say the quartet have no case to answer.

News of their clearance detailed in a police report comes weeks after Cabinet at the start of this month handed Utl to Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd, a Nigerian firm, to run for the next 20 years.

The firm is to pay Uganda government Shs260b over the first months and in return take control of Utl’s Shs148b assets, receive tax waivers, an extended frequency as well as manage Uganda’s flagship multi-million dollar national backbone optic fibre infrastructure.

Police cleared the businessmen and closed the case on the advice of the DPP whose official, Ms Khisa, stated that there was evidence Finance ministry’s Ms Kasimbazi authored the impugned letters.

“The four anticipated counts of forgery and uttering cannot therefore be sustained and, are accordingly, not sanctioned,” she noted. In an October 19 report, police said the file should be closed.

By Daily Monitor

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