Lawyers task DPP to reinstate graft charges against Basajja

Legal Brains Trust CEO  Isaac Ssemakadde (left) addresses journalists in Kampala on December 8, 2022. He is flanked by members of Social Justice Centres Uganda led by Mr Habib Buwembo (2nd left). PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • In May 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Basajjabalaba brothers should stand trial before the Anti-Corruption Court on grounds that their trial wasn’t unconstitutional since the charges fall under the ambit of the Anti-Corruption Act.

Lawyers of Legal Brain Trust, a Kampala-based democracy and human rights watchdog, have given the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) three days to reinstate the multibillion corruption case against businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba or they take action.
Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, one of the concerned lawyers, advised DPP Jane Frances Abodo not to attend the anti-corruption week but instead use that time to reinstate the Shs142b city market compensation case against Mr Basajjabalaba and his brother Muzamiru Basajjabalaba.

“Evidence against the Basajjabalaba brothers is within the public domain. A huge line-up of witnesses is available. For the DPP to discontinue cases against them, she is guilty of abuse of office and willful failure to comply with the orders of the Constitutional Court to resume the prosecution of the Basajjabalaba brothers,” Mr Ssemakadde told journalists in Kampala yesterday.

It is reported that the DPP had in August secretly dropped the corruption charges against the Basajjabalaba brothers and had since discharged them.
“Criminal case no.003 of 2013 Uganda Vs Hassan Basajjabalaba and Muzamiru Basajjabalaba was withdrawn by the state by way of nolle prosequi dated August 30. This court was presented with the said nolle on October 6 and pursuant to Section 134 (1) of the Trial and Indictment Act, the accused were discharged,” reads part the response letter by the registrar of the Anti-Corruption Court to Mr Ssemakadde on the delayed trial of the businessman.

When contacted on whether they will heed the lawyers’ demands, Ms Jacquelyn Okui, the spokesperson of the Office of the DPP,  said she would get to us. However, she had not responded by press time.
Mr Ssemakadde said it is ridicule for the DPP to ignore evidence, including President Museveni’s 2011 letter, distancing himself from authorising payments to Mr Basajjabalaba.
The brothers had been facing several charges ranging from forgery of a judicial document, uttering of a false document and conspiracy to defeat tax laws.

The charges arose from the government cancellation of Mr Basajjabalaba’s lease contracts to develop several markets and other facilities around Kampala City for which he was compensated Shs142b for the loss.
However, after being compensated, a citizen started a private prosecution of the businessman, accusing him of defeating payment of taxes arising out of the huge compensation before the DPP took over the matter.
Likewise, Legal Brains Trust of Uganda sued Mr Basajjabalaba alongside his five companies.

During the June 11 and June 13, 2019 hearings, court heard that between January 2000 and December 2011, Mr Basajjabalaba and his companies entered into contracts with Kampala City Council [now defunct] to manage, own and redevelop Owino, Nakasero and Shauliyako markets, and the Constitutional Square, but the contracts were entered into without the advice of the Attorney General.
The duo had challenged their prosecution before the Anti-Corruption Court, citing a number of alleged constitutional breaches and had asked the Constitutional Court to quash it.