Members of Parliament yesterday quizzed some Ugandans of Asian origin for allegedly repossessing properties left by departed Asians when they were expelled by Idi Amin in 1972.
Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises is investigating circumstances under which properties, whose owners were compensated by government, have been dubiously acquired by private individuals.
The Ugandans of Asian origin, who appeared before the committee, are Mr Muhammad Allibhai, the chairperson of the Association of Expropriated Properties Owners Limited; Ms Kassam Mumtaz, the deputy Ugandan Ambassador to Italy; Mr Minex Karia of Property Services; Mr Praful Patel, Mr Rajin Taylor and Mr Toshak Patel, all businessmen.
Mr Allibhai told MPs that after returning to Uganda in 1987, he was three years later given powers of attorney by owners of 400 properties to help in the repossession process because they were scattered in Canada and United Kingdom.
He said the owners of the properties cumulatively assigned him the responsibility through a loose association called the Uganda Property Group. Asked for documentary evidence that the Uganda Property Group existed and gave him instructions to repossess properties on behalf of the owners, Mr Allibhai said he has lost memory of most of what transpired.
He told the MPs that he also repossessed two properties on behalf of his family but lost one in a court case.
Mr Karia of Property Services, whose co-director Pradip Karia was a no-show before the Committee, explained that their company used powers of attorney to repossess about 50 properties.
He, however, did not avail details of the status of most of those properties, saying Mr Pradip would be the right person to explain. Their family was never expropriated because they remained in Uganda in 1972. Ambassador Mumtaz explained that she helped in the repossession of about 100 properties in her professional capacity as a lawyer, adding that she now only manages 15 of them because the rest were taken over by their owners.
“The powers of attorney I received from British Asians in UK were in specific manner as the owners instructed me personally after I returned to Uganda in 1987. Myself I didn’t repossess any property because I left as a young girl who owned nothing,” she explained.
Mr Taylor, a former minister in the Mengo government, who still manages 15 of the 50 properties, said he was instructed by owners to repossess the properties, and accused DAPCB of making “unfounded” allegations.
“We are very surprised that the current Executive Secretary of Custodian Board, Mr [George William] Bizibu has turned against us even when we have been involved in meetings with them since 1993. Our prayer is that this committee stops the Custodian Board from re-allocating repossessed properties because we know that money collected in rent goes to a third party,” Mr Taylor said.
The MPs asked the group to prepare documentary evidence on repossession certificates, list of properties they helped repossess or they are currently managing, the powers of attorney used, and the list of properties already transferred or still under their individual management and present them to the committee.