City tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia has written to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, challenging the inclusion of his property on Plot 24 Kampala Road among those whose ownership is being investigated by Members of Parliament.
Mr Ruparelia has also separately explained to Daily Monitor in an interview the process in which he bought the property from the original proprietors in 2011.
A select sub-committee working on instructions of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) is probing how private Ugandans dubiously acquired properties that have never been reclaimed by expelled Asians, and those that government had compensated for.
Mr Sudhir, the chairman of Ruparelia Foundation, informed the Speaker and the Chief Justice that his company, Meera Investment Limited, the registered holder of the title in question, defeated the Departed Asians’ Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) in a case decided in 2005.
In an August 14 letter, a copy which Daily Monitor has obtained, the city tycoon wonders how a matter that was settled by High Court without any appeal from DAPCB could be investigated by Parliament.
“Cosase is now inquiring into a matter and ownership decided on by the High Court in 2012. We are now seeking clarification and guidance from you whether Parliament can inquire into a matter where a decision of court has been made or where a matter is in court,” Mr Sudhir stated in the letter.
The same letter has been copied in to Chief Justice Bart Katurebe.
Mr Sudhir said he applied for judicial review under LD CR 16 of 2012, challenging the DAPCB claim that former owners did not return to Uganda to repossess the property after they were expelled together with other Asians in 1972 by then president Idi Amin.
“High Court listened to us and listened to Custodian Board (represented by Attorney General) and made a decision on December 20, 2012, in our favour,” he added.
Mr Sam Obbo, the press secretary to the Speaker, said he was not yet aware whether Ms Kadaga had read the letter.
“Once she is done with it, she will definitely forward it to the relevant committee,” Mr Obbo said.
Last month, officials from the DAPCB led by executive secretary George William Bizibu told the select committee chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi that Mr Ruparelia bought the property under unknown circumstances.
Appearing before the same committee early last week, former DAPCB executive secretary Bernard Tumwesigire also alleged that the Plot 24 Kampala road is one of the 25 properties whose planned sale was revoked in 2006 by then State Minister of Finance in-charge of General Duties, Mr Fred Omach.
Mr Tumwesigire added that during his 12 years of working in different capacities in DAPCB, it was found out that the property had been illegally transferred to Meera Investments Ltd by the Commissioner Land Registration in the Ministry of Lands, Ms Sarah Kulata.
“It is my humble submission that this property is captured in the roadmap paper I made in April 2010 about the expropriated properties. This plot was reported among the 54 properties transferred by Madam Sarah Kulata the Commissioner for Land Registration,” Mr Tumwesigire testified.
However, Mr Sudhir in an interview with this newspaper on Thursday, produced an original title for the plot indicating how he bought the property from the two owners, Rameshchandra Kataria and Keshavlal Premchand Shah.
The said title, a copy of which we have obtained, indicated that the two former owners each had a half undivided shares under what is known as Tenancy in Common. This is an arrangement whereby two or more people own the same property with undivided shares.
“I don’t know what those Custodian Board people are telling the Cosase because I never bought the property fraudulently. I have the original title and I took control of the entire plot in 2011,” he said.
Records on the title show Mr Sudhir first bought the half share of Kataria and it was registered in the names of Meera Investments Ltd on February 2, 1996 under instrument number 277338.
Then, on March 7, 2011, Meera Investments Ltd took full control of the property after buying the half share from Bharat Keshavlala Shah the administrator of the estate of the late Premchand Shah and was registered under instrument number 444801.