KAMPALA-UGANDA/NEWSDAY: The Anti-Corruption court has granted a Shs 10 million cash bail to the state minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi.
Lugoloobi is facing charges related to diverting iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja. Today Thursday, court presided over by the acting senior principal magistrate grade one Abert Asiimwe released Lugoloobi following a successful application by his lawyers which was filed on Monday.
It is alleged that Lugoloobi while at the Office of the Prime Minister stores in Namanve in Mukono district and at different places in Matuga, Wakiso district, and Ntenjeru North Constituency in Kayunga district dealt with government property that is; 700 pre-painted iron sheets marked ‘Office of the Prime Minister’.
According to the prosecution, the said iron sheets which were reportedly acquired as a result of loss of property, an offence under section 10 (1) of the Anti-Corruption court were obtained in two phases – with one involving 400 pieces of iron sheets between July 14, 2022, and February 2023, and another batch of 300 iron sheets obtained between February 1, 2023, and March 16, 2023.
Lugoloobi however denied all the charges, and his lawyers led by John Isabirye and Tonny Tumukunde applied for bail on grounds that their client is an MP and a minister with a fixed place of abode in Kizungu Zone, Makindye Sabagabo.
He told the court that the minister has substantial sureties namely; Mariam Naigaga (Namutumba Woman MP), James Kakooza (EALA MP and a former state minister for Health, Dr Kefa Kiwanuka (Kiboga East MP) and Paul Mugamba Ssempwa who was Lugoloobi’s best man at his wedding.
Other sureties presented included; Martin Ssekajja the head of operations at Uganda Security Printing Company, Joseph Muwavala (prime minister of Busoga kingdom and executive director of National Planning Authority) and Kalisa Moses Karangwa.
The lawyers also told court that Lugoloobi is hypertensive and with type two diabetes, dyslipidemia, and also suffers from coronary heart disease, and is fresh from a heart surgery he underwent on July 14, 2022.
But prosecution led by Stanley Baine, Jonathan Muwaganya, David Bisamunyu, and Safina Bireke opposed Lugoloobi’s bail application saying that inquiries in the case are in advanced stages and can be completed within the shortest period of time like one week.
State attorney Baine said Lugoloobi is a minister and an MP and therefore a very influential person who is capable of interfering with the investigations. The prosecution asked court to deny Lugoloobi bail on grounds that his sureties presented documents including bank statements and land titles with encumbrances yet the letters attached to them say they are free from those encumbrances.
They also added that no documents from sureties like Karangwa were availed and that they are also concerned about Kakooza as EALA MP. They argued that as a person who sits in Tanzania, he might not discharge his duties as a surety because of his busy schedule.
They added that Lugoloobi’s condition can also be managed by the Uganda Prison. However, they said that if the court wishes to grant him bail, stringent terms should be set for him to enable him to attend the trial. In his ruling, Asiimwe granted Lugoloobi bail on grounds that the prosecution did not bring any information regarding Lugoloobi’s past records to show if he has ever been found guilty of any offence.
He also said that the land documents which were presented before court were verified and the documents returned to the court showed that he is indeed a resident in Makindye and the land there that he says belongs to him which implies that he has a permanent place of residence.
Asiimwe also said that there was no evidence to show that the minister will interfere with witnesses once released on bail. He said the allegations of interfering with witnesses with no proof cannot curtail an accused person’s constitutional right to liberty. He ordered Lugoloobi not to interfere with the investigations else his bail will be immediately cancelled.
He also said that besides being convinced that Lugoloobi is sickly, he also needs psycho-social care for his family. Lugoloobi was ordered to surrender his original land title where his home is situated and also to surrender his original diplomatic passport to the court.
Each of his sureties was asked to execute a non-cash bail of Shs 100 million. Baine asked for a shorter adjournment to inform the court of the status of the investigations. The magistrate adjourned the case to June 2. There was excitement from thousands of Lugoloobi’s supporters who had camped at court after he was given bail.
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