State to appeal as Mukula walks free
Posted Thursday, March 14 2013 at 02:00
Judge sets Mukula free, faults prosecution for not explaining Muhwezi’s role in scam. Lead Prosecutor Sidney Asubo yesterday said the government had decided to appeal because the “judge has imported issues into the case”.
The government yesterday said it would appeal against the acquittal of former junior Health minister Mike Mukula, just hours after a High Court judge quashed his January 18 sentence, citing the prosecution’s failure to explain the role of his former boss, Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi, in the matter.
In his 23-page ruling, High Court Judge David Wangutusi faulted the prosecution for singling out Mr Mukula and yet the evidence on record showed that the money he allegedly stole was in the hands of Maj. Gen. Muhwezi, who was the Health minister. The judge then set aside the four-year sentence handed to the Soroti Municipality MP by a Magistrate’s Court.
He said in his ruling: “Careful scrutiny of exhibit 2 (b), shows that the money was in front of the minister (Maj. Gen. Muhwezi) when he wrote the letter. I say this because by the time a person writes a letter splitting the amounts in denominations of 50, 20, and 5, he is most likely not looking at it, but fingering it as well.”
He added: “The money must have been in the ministry’s headquarters under the control of the minister (Mr Muhwezi) where he could reach it. If the money that was supposed to have been stolen in February 2005 by the appellant (Mr Mukula) was under the control of the minister (Mr Muhwezi) in May 2005, the prosecution had a bigger job than they thought.
“That the money was still around in May, corroborates DW2s evidence that after she was directed to take the money to the senior minister (Maj. Gen. Muhwezi) she did so and the minister, after verification, told her to go and keep it in the safe. The evidence also complements exhibit D2, the letter of the undersecretary directing that the money be taken to Hon. Muhwezi instead of the appellant. I believe the evidence that exhibit D2 was acted upon.”
Mr Mukula had been convicted of embezzling Shs210 million from the Gavi account. The Soroti Municipality MP has since been serving his sentence at Luzira Prison. Lead Prosecutor Sidney Asubo yesterday said the government had decided to appeal because the “judge has imported issues into the case”.
Mr Asubo, who has been prosecuting the matter since 2007, explained that the Shs54 million that the judge referred to as having been under the control of Maj. Gen. Muhwezi, was not the issue but the Shs210 million.
“These are things imported into the matter by the judge. Our concern was about the Shs210 million not Shs54 million disbursed by Maj. Gen. Muhwezi to the office of the First Lady. This is the basis for our appeal,” said Mr Asubo.
Yesterday, moments after the judgment, Mr Mukula’s supporters, who had thronged the court as early as 7am, screamed in jubilation. A visibly overjoyed Mr Mukula, who had spent close to two months in Luzira, was mobbed by family members and friends who hugged him. He said: “I have come out of Luzira a much stronger person than I went there. Let me take this opportunity to thank God, he does not sleep, or take a bribe.”
He added: “I thank my wife Gladys, the children and all the MPs who visited me at Luzira Prison.”
He was then driven back to Luzira, where he was officially released by the prison authorities before being driven in a convoy atop his car back to his home in Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb.