Friday, April 23, 2021

Uganda’s ex-principal accountant Kazinda gets 15 years in prison for corruption

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Former Principal Accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister, Geoffrey Kazinda, has been sentenced to yet another 15 years in jail for illicit enrichment.

Justice Margret Tibulya found Kazinda guilty of charges of accumulating abnormal wealth (illicit enrichment) instituted against him by the Inspectorate of Government (IG) back in 2016. Kazinda has already spent 8 years in Luzira prison over forgery, embezzlement, and causing financial loss to the government.

During their investigations, the IG found out that between 2009 and 2012, Kazinda was enjoying a standard of living way above his known source of income and possessing and amassing wealth amounting to Shs4.6 billion.

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The investigations pointed out that Kazinda had rented Constellation Suites in Nakasero for ten months at a cost of Shs210 million, had three plots of land in Bukoto valued Shs3.6 billion, cars including BMW, Mercedes Benz, ML class, Dodge Saloon cars all valued at Shs769 million.

Prosecution contends that this was far above his known and declared annual income of Shs84 million, thus raising a red flag on how he acquired them. On cross-examining several witnesses and exhibits brought before court, the presiding justice found out that Kazinda had concealed the properties when he registered them under names of different persons.

For instance, the court heard that Kazinda had rented a suite in the names of his friends. However, from the evidence adduced in court, there were invoices that had been signed by the accused paying for it. More evidence also indicated that the said cars had all been bought in the names of his friends with some testifying before court that they had been ordered by Kazinda to procure the cars in their names.

Kazinda had also transferred three land titles for pieces of land situated in Bukoto to the society of Brothers of Christian Instruction as a donation. However, court found out that he remained in full control of the pieces of land in question.

However, in his defence, Kazinda denied owning any of the said properties. But he argued that he could afford to live such high standards given the fact that his family had a wealthy financial background and that they had received huge sums of money when they sold off some of the properties including part of the land that hosts Entebbe airport.

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Kazinda also argued that apart from his family wealth, he had worked tirelessly for 18 years before he joined public service. Considering his point of argument, Justice Tibulya wondered why Kazinda didn’t declare all his source of income to the IG as required by the law which to her raises suspicion.

“According to the Law, senior public servant is required to declare all, not some, of their source of income to the Inspectorate of Government,” she said in her judgment.

The judge also put into account that the accused had worked for 18 years but rather found that the said ground could not explain the mismatch between his income and standard of living. “Let’s says that for all the 18 years he had a similar income of Shs84 million, this wound amount to Shs1.512 billion which is still low compared to the value of money in this case.”

After his conviction, the prosecution led by Sarah Birungi called for a strong sentence and confiscation of three plots of land in Bukoto. “This will give him and other public officers a lesson that corruption is bad,” Ms Birungi argued.

However, Kazinda who was representing himself in the matter requested the judge to hand him a non-custodial sentence given the fact that he is a first-time offender who had already spent four years in prison before the trial and almost four and a half on remand. He also prayed that the court doesn’t confiscate the property in question.

Considering mitigating factors from either side, the judge highlighted that the convict was not showing any signs of remorse.  “The convict has not learnt anything to date. He is not even willing to give up the property he owned through illicit enrichment,” Justice Tibulya said.

The convict will serve 15 years starting from the date of judgement. I also order for confiscation of the said properties; the court cannot allow him to enjoy fruits obtained from a crime,” she held.

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Kazinda has been in Luzira prison since 2013 when he was convicted of unlawfully possessing government stores and sentenced to five years and despite finishing the said sentence he was held in prison due to pending charges that continue to be brought against him by the state.

However, single-handedly, Kazinda challenged most of the criminal charges slapped in the Constitutional Court which later permanently stayed all corruption proceedings against him. He also got another win from the same court when it quashed his conviction on embezzlement and conspiracy to defraud the government.

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