Behind the deaths of key witnesses in high-profile cases
Posted Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 02:55
Why are key suspects/witnesses in big-ticket cases increasingly dropping dead, half the time after suffering a short and or mysterious illnesses?
Last Saturday, indicted Ministry of Finance official Amon Takwenda died at Naguru Hospital, two days after checking in at the facility. He was reported to have been receiving treatment for high blood pressure, according to results of medical tests done at Jicca Laboratory in Wandegeya.
He had also been examined at Mulago Heart Institute for a probable heart condition, and the results were awaited.
The exact cause of Takwenda’s sudden demise is yet to be established.
He was one of several employees who were helping police to string together evidence about how billions of shillings in donor money under the Office of the Prime Minister got spirited away. Detectives had repeatedly interviewed him over the past eight months.
Auditor General John Muwanga in his forensic audit report on OPM last year, identified Takwenda as the Treasury agent who, on December 29, 2011, hand-delivered security papers from the Treasury to Bank of Uganda to expedite release of Shs14.8 billion.
The cash had fraudulently been wired to a previously dormant Crisis Management and Recovery account from the Peace Recovery & Development Programme.
The transaction was disguised as a salary Electronic Fund Transfer file, but strangely lacked requisite authorisation by the Accountant General.
The transfer, the report noted, was an attempt to cover-up a fraudulent transaction executed three weeks earlier.
Thus, investigators considered Takwenda a high-value source to help unlock the mystery surrounding the scam, and in effect expose suspected criminals in the syndicate.
He was reluctant to cooperate. In his first recorded statement at police on November 20, 2012, Takwenda admitted delivering the security papers, but said he could not remember the name of the officer who received them at Bank of Uganda.
When detectives offered to drive him to BoU so he could physically identify the staff, Takwenda declined, saying he could neither recall the official’s face nor the office.
He recorded a second statement to that effect, and stranded police let him out on bond.
The deceased has since then been reporting to CIID Kibuli headquarters every Thursday, until January 10, when he was adjudged to be in bad health.
Takwenda had on that day arrived in the interrogation room with a shortness of breath and had to be helped up the stairs, according to a detective familiar with the case. This detective said the man’s bond was hastily extended to enable him seek medical help.
He was expected back at Kibuli tomorrow. Instead, Takwenda is dead and buried with whatever information he likely had that otherwise would have aided successful prosecution, raising questions about policy and application on official protection of key witnesses/suspects.
Had the indicted official gauged that any revelation would incriminate his superiors as well as endanger his life, and chose silence to insulate them and himself?