The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Justice Jane Frances Abodo embarked on a media tour today, 13th December, 2022 starting with a sponsored interview on NBS Television ostensibly to explain the role of her office in private prosecutions.
Next, the DPP headed for another interview at 90.0 FM Radio One to explain the role of her office in the fight against corruption.
These interviews come on the heels of scathing accusations of corruption from legal activists in the way she has handled businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba (HABA) and his brother Muzamiru Basajjabalaba’s tax evasion and forgery criminal case.
DPP Jane Frances Abodo discontinued the prosecution of the duo in October for crimes of conspiring to defeat tax laws and forgery of a Court document despite obtaining a green light from the Constitutional and Supreme Courts.
Basajjabalaba’s case emanates from a botched deal that the Government of Uganda had given his HABA Group of Companies to manage certain city markets and the Constitution Square.
The businessman allegedly, together with his brother Muzamiru, forged a Consent Judgment to avoid paying a 20 Billion Uganda Shillings Tax assessed by Uganda Revenue Authority on a 142 Billion Uganda Shillings Compensation package paid to him by the Government in lieu of losing the deal.
Basajjabalaba unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the charges against him in the Constitutional Court and subsequently the Supreme Court with both Courts ordering the DPP to resume prosecution of him at the Anti- Corruption Court.
He, however, had obtained a temporary injunction against his prosecution pending the determination of the said Constitutional Petition and later the Appeal in the Supreme Court, which was decided in 2021 – 10 years after prosecution of the criminal case began.
During the NBS Interview, DPP Jane Frances Abodo said she withdrew the case from Court to reorganize and reinstitute it in the future noting that the law allows her office to withdraw cases and relaunch them provided that is done before they are defended.
Abodo said the 10 year lapse of time between when prosecution was first launched and when she was given a nod to prosecute has affected prosecution of the case with some witnesses having left relevant offices to the prosecution during the period.
Abodo further said her office is awaiting certification of certain documents.
“ The case was withdrawn from Court for investigations to be concluded before Prosecution. At the time the Constitutional Petition was filed, investigations into the matter were still ongoing. The Constitutional Court stopped the continued investigation and prosecution of the case pending the outcome of the Constitutional Petition. Therefore, the investigations could not be concluded. Some of these investigations include certification of documents. The matter was later appealed to the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court eventually permitted the DPP to prosecute the case, it was not ready for prosecution and could not be mentioned in the High Court, as a matter of Anti-Corruption Court policy. So, the DPP found it prudent to withdraw the case from Court to have investigations in the matter concluded. “Ms. Jacqueline Okui, Public Relations Officer Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions explained the debacle in an interview with The Legal Reports.
“The DPP withdrew the case with the knowledge and understanding that she is able to reinstate it upon the conclusion of investigations” Jacqueline added.
But how long does it take to CERTIFY documents in such a high profile case? And what kind of documents are these? Does change of office prevent someone from testifying about events that could be within his/her knowledge?
It should be noted that during the NBS Interview, DPP Jane Frances Abodo said typically her office starts prosecution of a case with 30% of the necessary investigations complete and that in the Basajjabalaba Case, 80% of investigations were already done by the time of prosecution.
Earlier, Ms. Josephine Namatovu, Head of the Anti-Corruption Department in the DPP’s office was quoted as saying some witnesses relevant to the prosecution of Hassan Basajjabalaba and his brother for the alleged crimes have since passed on.
The DPP in the NBS Interview did not mention the death of any witnesses. But Ms. Jacqueline Okui said during the 10 years lapse some of the witnesses passed on.
When pressed to mention some of these dead witnesses, apart from the publicly known would-be witnesses such as Former Attorney General Peter Nyombi, Ms. Jacqueline Okui said she could not give us such specific details of the case file.
“We usually don’t. That’s why I can’t give you specific information about uncertified documents.” She told The Legal Reports.
But why would a dead witness be protected anyway?
Following the DPP’s Interview on NBS Television, Human Rights Lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, CEO of Legal Brains Trust, a Civil Society Organisation that has been at forefront of the advocacy calling for the Prosecution of Hassan Basajjabalaba and his brother, Muzamiru Basajjabalaba took to Twitter to say the DPP was telling lies and that her media tours are Public Relations (PR) stunts.
“ Abodo has ditched the ‘dead witnesses’ blatant lie, in favour of a second lie: ‘ We’re going back to the drawing board, to ensure that all our exhibits are properly certified, then we refile the case.” Mr. Ssemakadde tweeted.
“ Without specifying the date for the so-called ‘refiling,’ this is simply PR, soothing the public into slumber, hoping we forget and move on. Abodo knows very well that she’s caught up in a deliberate, blatant and dishonest misuse of public power.”
Uganda loses trillions of Shillings to corruption every year and the case of Basajjabalaba is just one of many cases in the Country that require keen attention from authorities such as the DPP and the Inspectorate of Government (IGG).
This is because the Constitutional Court found the contracts awarded to Basajjabalaba were void for lack of legal advice and approval from the Attorney General a mandatory requirement for any contracts involving Government to be concluded.
In a 2011 letter purportedly written by President Yoweri Museveni about this Basajjabalaba case, which The Legal Reports could not independently verify, the President says Basajjabalaba connived with government officials to obtain the whooping 142 Billion Compensation package in respect of the botched deal – on which he allegedly tried to evade tax by forging a Consent Judgement of Court which among other things indicated the President had okayed the tax exemption.