Sunday April 21 2013

Ugandan politicians arrested in India

Igara East MP Michael Mawanda and ex-minister Isaac Musumba,

Igara East MP Michael Mawanda and ex-minister Isaac Musumba, who were arrested in the Indian city of Mumbai. FILE PHOTOS  

By JOHN NJOROGE

Police in the Indian city of Mumbai are questioning the former Buzaaya MP and Regional Affairs Minister, Mr Isaac Musumba, the Igara County East MP, Mr Michael Mawanda and Yakuba Mathai, a Uganda businessman, over allegedly attempting to extort $20 million (Shs50 billion) from four directors of Videocon, an India-based electronics company.

Mr James Mugume, the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, on Saturday confirmed that his ministry has been informed and was “closely following up on the developments”.

“We are waiting for a briefing from the Indian High Commission here over the circumstances that led to their questioning. I cannot give much detail now because we also do not have the facts,” Mr Mugume told the Sunday Monitor.

Ms Carol Lwabi, Uganda’s First Secretary at its High Commission in India, declined to comment over the matter, referring this newspaper to the foreign affairs ministry.
An Indian online news agency, www.mumbaimirror.com, quoted a deputy commissioner of police Mr Ravindra Shisve, saying: “The MRA marg police registered a case of extortion, fraudulent removal or concealment of property, and common intention against the trio. Though the investigation is on and they are being questioned, we are also checking if the accused have diplomatic immunity.”

Mr Musumba and Mr Mawanda are holders of diplomatic passports but according to Mumbai Police, the two during interrogation revealed that “they had come to India not on diplomatic terms but in their personal capacities. Musumba said he had come to provide legal advice to Mathai.”

The Indian Police said they had informed the ministry of external affairs about the issue but were yet to determine if Mr Mawanda and Mr Musumba are entitled to diplomatic immunity. The news agency reported on Saturday that the three had been “picked up” at midnight on Friday from the Trident Hotel where they were staying.

Sunday Monitor called the Trident Hotel but could not reach Mr Musumba, who apparently “was not in his room”. Mr Musumba’s known mobile phone numbers were also turned off.

Kamuli District Chairperson Salaam Musumba on Saturday said her husband and his colleagues had not been arrested. “To the best of my knowledge, it is only their passports that were taken when they were questioned. They are not in custody,” Ms Musumba said in an interview.

“He had gone to provide legal representation to a client,” Ms Musumba added. According to Mumbai media, Mr Musumba, Mr Mawanda and Mr Mathai visited the corporate office of Videocon industries on Thursday and claimed to have “an international arrest warrant” for four of the company’s directors.

Mumbai police say the three claimed Videocon had invested in a mining business in Uganda in 2009, but suddenly had wrapped up the business within six months, signed a memorandum of understanding with the partner and left the country, duping several investors.

According to Mumbai Police, the trio told Videocon industries office staff to inform the four directors of their visit to Mumbai and asked for a meeting at the Trident Hotel.

“A legal team from Videocon met them at the hotel. When they asked about the purpose of their visit, the Ugandans told them they would settle the matter if the four directors paid them $20 million. If not, they said, they would arrest them,” Mumbai police said.

The legal team informed their office of the trio’s demands, upon which Marven Fernandes, one of the directors, approached the police and registered a case against them.

jnjoroge@ug.nationmedia.com

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