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Land scam: Law firm forges judge's signature, defrauds govt Shs 2bn

 Kyle Lubega (L) responding to queries raised by Cosase

Kyle Lubega (L) responding to queries raised by Cosase

Members of parliament on the Committee of commissions, statutory authorities, and state enterprises (Cosase) on Thursday pinned Kampala-based law firm, Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates for alleged forgery and defrauding the government of Shs 2.039 billion.

The money was deposited on the law firm's accounts and was part of the Shs 10.6 billion supplementary budget that the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development requested for in FY 2020/2021 to pay land claimants in Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions through the Uganda Land Commission (ULC). Natalia Namuli is one of the six claimants who purportedly sold their land to the government.

It is alleged that on March 18, 2015, the law firm forged the signature of justice Ralph Ochan as the Masindi High court judge, yet at the time, the resident judge was Justice Byabakama the current chairperson of the Electoral Commission. They also issued fake letters of administration of the property and credits of the estate of the late Antwane Kalete.

Through the powers of the attorney, the law firm being operated by Kyle Lubega and Richard Buzibira reportedly presented Namuli as a granddaughter of Antwane, formerly a resident of Kyamukama village, Buyaga county in Kagadi district.

Namuli, through the law firm, was paid two installments of Shs 450 million and later Shs 1.589 billion respectively. But she has been a subject of a dispute after ULC chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki protested against her payments on grounds of being a ‘ghost claimant.’

An ad hoc committee of parliament was instituted to investigate the claims, and subsequently confirmed the interface and existence of Namuli. Joel Ssenyonyi, Cosase chairperson summoned Lubega and Buzibira who confirmed the existence of Namuli. But trouble for the two lawyers ensued when the MPs secretly dispatched Bunny Twesigye, a detective attached to the committee who went on the ground to investigate the truth about Namuli.

In a report that he read to the committee, Twesigye revealed that he interviewed Namuli at her home in Nyakasozi village, Nsunga sub-county in Kagadi where she firmly denied any links with the late Antwane, the law firm and matters relating to processing compensations for the deceased’s estates.

According to Twesigye, Namuli recalled that in late 2020, her son-in-law, Peter Amara a businessman and former chairperson of Kibaale district transported her to Kampala, accommodated her in an undisclosed storied hotel, and made her sign a series of documents she had no knowledge about.

Twesigye produced a photo he took with the victim and a copy of her national ID confirming the existence of the 79-year-old who was born in 1943. The revelation prompted the MPs to task Lubega, who represented the law firm, to explain who they actually paid.

"I met Namuli and interviewed her, but she categorically denied being an administrator of the estate of the late Kalette. She further confirmed that she is not related to the family of the late Kalette and also declined knowledge about it,” Twesigye said.

Asked whether she has ever processed any letters of administration for the purported estate or received any compensation from ULC, Namuli allegedly told Twesigye that she has never received any compensation money.
 
“Natalia Namuli stated that she has never got any money from Uganda Land Commission neither does she know that her in-law Peter Amara received any money on her behalf. Apparently, it is Amara who approached ULC purporting to help in compensation of land of his mother-in-law,” Twesigye added.

Lubega apologized for telling lies to the committee and requested to retract his earlier statement that he had spoken to Namuli in person. He also requested the committee to summon his partner Buzibira to answer more about the transactions because he had limited knowledge.

"When the money entered the [law firm] account, my colleague who has been handling the file asked me to sign [the cheque] in order to pay the client. I signed and he went ahead and withdrew the money and I believe he paid the client,” Lubega said. 

The MPs were agitated by Lubega’s uncoordinated statements and demanded his detention for further investigation. Ssenyonyi handed Lubega to the Criminal Intelligence Investigation Department (CIID) at parliament for further interrogation.

The committee is also looking for Buzibira who has twice snubbed the summons to answer the queries surrounding their law firm’s involvement in processing the compensation for the victim in question. Ssenyonyi also produced a letter from justice Ochan who confirmed that at the time of the issuance of the purported letter of administration to Namuli in 2015, he had already retired from the Judiciary in 2013 and was serving as the chairperson of the Public Service Commission.

Following the Cosase probe, two officials of the ULC, Siraj Isabirye, the former senior accountant, and Joan Namulondo, the principal human resource officer were arrested to aid police with further investigations.

Barbara Imaryo, ULC secretary/accounting officer who made the payments without the Board’s approval is currently on the run as her case has been referred to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

Comments   

+5 #1 PaulM 2022-06-24 08:22
This theft of public funds is just too much! These are the guys who should be lynched to death not the chicken thieves
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+1 #2 Odongkara Bidong 2022-06-24 15:24
ULC chairperson Beatrice Byenkya should be reinstated and Beti Kamya arrested because she must know something here.
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0 #3 kabayekka 2022-06-24 22:02
So now how can the lobby of Bunyoro land ownership get on with trying to vanquish the Ganda fraternity from their rightful lands of their ancestors?

This is the same corruption that was prevailing during and after 1910 just after the slaughter of King Mwanga II by the British Land grabbers.
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