Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Jamson Karemani has sentenced city advocate Bob Kasango to a fine of Shs 12m or 14 years in jail after being convicted of two counts of stealing by agent and uttering false document.
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Magistrate added Kasango was a “first time offender who can reform if given a chance.”
On the count of ‘theft by agent’, Kasango received a fine of Shs 2m or one year imprisonment.
For uttering false documents, the city lawyer was ordered to pay Shs 10m or face a jail term of four years.
Kasango was in September 2010 arrested and charged at Buganda Road Court with three counts of forgery, uttering a false document and theft by agent.
Tooro Queen Mother Best Kemigisa alleged her lawyer failed to remit to her Shs 4.5 billion from government as payment for land in Fort portal which she sold to government.
She further told court that she only received Shs 1.1 billion, a sum she acknowledged on December 24, 2008.
Kasango had won the case only for the Queen Mother to lodge an appeal.
During the court sessions, prosecution alleged that Kasango had forged a letter from the Ministry of Lands supposedly saying that the full amount had not been paid with the motive of defrauding Kemigisa.
The state further brought the Government Handwriting Expert – Mr. Ntalirwa and the Permanent Secretary Mr Ggabindade Musoke.
Musoke affirmed that the signature looked exactly like his.
The handwriting expert said he found the signature on the allegedly forged letter to have similarities with that of the PS and that the prosecution also refused to produce the origins of the forged letter and so it was not possible to say the letter was forged.
He said his finding was inconclusive. The Magistrate also noted that the PS referred to another letter as being the letter taken to him by a certain Samuel Atubet who was acting on behalf of the Queen Mother.
Kemigisa made reference to a different letter and the handwriting expert also made reference to another letter that was given to him by the Police.
Ntalirwa concluded that there were three letters and yet the allegation is that only one letter was forged. Of the three letters, two had different dates and one was not dated.
In his ruling, the first magistrate to hear the case, Simon Kintu found that these inconsistencies are “glaring and could not sustain the charge.”
In regard to uttering a false document, Kintu found that the only evidence that was produced was that of the Queen Mother who alleged that Kasango gave her the letter.
But Samuel Atubet who took the letter to the PS was never produced to testify and corroborate what Kemigisa said.
The Chief Magistrate said there were three different letters and the one the Queen Mother was referring to is not the one the Police gave the Handwriting expert.
He also ruled that the inconsistencies and doubts over the letter and its utterance were so many that it was no safe to convict on the basis of such evidence. He found that the prosecution failed again to prove that count beyond reasonable doubt
On third account of theft by agent, the Magistrate noted that Kasango was accused of stealing 3.3bn in the charge sheet, but in her statement on 26 August 2008 to the Police, she stated that, “Kasango has never paid me anything since I have him instructions”.
Yet, said Kintu, the amount paid to Kasango was 4.5bn.
“Then why is he charged with stealing only 3.3bn if she did not receive anything?” wondered Kintu.
In the same statement to Police, Kemigisa denied ever signing any agreement for fees with Kasango.
Two months later, however, in October 2010, she made an additional statement to Police acknowledging having received Shs. 720m only from Kasango.
Under cross-examination, she said she had forgotten that Kasango paid her that money. The Magistrate wondered how someone could forget the receipt of such a large sum of money.
Kemigisa also denied that Kasango paid Shs. 950m to Hassan Basajjabalaba for the luxurious mansion in Munyonyo, Kampala where she lives today.
The Magistrate noted that Kasango produced his bank statements as evidence for these payments which occurred around April 29, 2008, but the Queen Mother denied them and rendered no alternative explanation for payments.
Kemigisa stated that she had given Kasango the cash to pay Basajjabalaba but the statements did not show any deposit of that amount of cash during the period she alleged and she produced no evidence that she gave Kasango the cash.
She also denied another payment of Shs300m from Kasango and in her testimony, alleged that it was a loan from DFCU Bank and that Kasango was just depositing it on her account.
Under cross-examination, noted Kintu, Kemigisa changed her testimony and admitted the amount, saying it was not a loan but a payment from Kasango.
The Magistrate further stated that the Queen Mother then changed her position and claimed that she now admits receiving Shs1.2bn only from Kasango, up from nothing as she stated in her statement to the Police.
Kintu referred to the testimony of the Police witness who described Kemigisa as “unreliable”.
The Magistrate also noted that Kemigisa initially denied signing an agreement for fees with Kasango but when she was confronted with the copies of the agreements in cross-examination, she admitted the lesser one of Shs 600m and denied the bigger one of Shs 1bn.
The prosecution did not subject the Agreements to a handwriting expert for examination and the court could only accept them in favour of the accused, he added.
Kintu referred to the testimony of the Police officer who described Kemigisa as “unreliable”.
He expressed shock that Kemigisa denied her own bank statements that were issued after a court order and that the prosecution made no effort to cross-check with the banks whether Kemigisa’s denials of the bank statements were authentic, instead they tried to shift the burden of proof to the accused.
He also found that on the basis of the documents and evidence presented by Kasango and unchallenged by the prosecution, Kemigisa received a total of Shs. 3.46bn from Kasango.
He accordingly acquitted him of all charges since the prosecution failed to prove any of them beyond reasonable doubt.
However, on appeal, High Court Judge Elizabeth Kabanda ordered that the record of proceeding in the Chief Magistrate’s Court at Buganda Road be referred back to the magistrate to sentence Mr Kasango.
“In the result, the appeal is substantially allowed. The order of acquittal is set aside and substituted with a conviction on count two of uttering a false document contrary to Section 351 of the Penal Code Act and count 3 of stealing by agent,” Justice Kabanda ruled.
She criticised the lower court for relying on minor contradictions to acquit Mr Kasango, saying such contradictions do not negate the substantive prosecution evidence.
However, Justice Kabanda upheld the acquittal of Kasango on the charge of forgery.
Court today directed Kasango to refund Shs 3.6bn to Kemigisa with an interest of 8 percent per annum starting on date of judgement.
A visibly excited Kemigisha welcomed the new judgement, saying, “This should serve as an example to all advocates who misuse the trust of their clients.”
The queen mother further requested the law council to withdraw Kasango’s practicing license.