By Anne Mugisa, Simon Masaba and Taddeo Bwambale
Hassan Basajjabalaba was remanded in Luzira Prison Wednesday afternoon after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) charged him afresh over forging a consent judgment to evade taxes.
The State rejected Basajjabalaba’s earlier private prosecution, calling it a ploy by the businessman to evade justice through staging a sham self prosecution using his own agents.
Chief Magisterate Eleanor Khainza presided over it.
The taxes in question amounting to sh20,122,239,094 (about sh20bn) arose out of the sh142,698,097,388 (about sh142bn) compensation to Basajjabalaba’s companies under Haba Group Ltd., for the City markets.
The compensation is also subject of another query and has seen two ministers resign over it.
The DPP, Richard Butera also said on Wednesday that his office is taking up the issue of Basajjabalaba’s stealth appearance in Court on Monday to take plea under private prosecution.
When contacted, Butera said: “Police was told by his agents that he was abroad and were waiting for him. His agents went, staged a prosecution and he is released on bail. He asks for his passport and it is given to him and now he was using it to escape.
“Both the applicant and the Court knew he was wanted… this cannot be allowed. It is abuse of the Court process. We shall continue with our prosecution and we are taking up this issue with the judiciary. It is a method of escaping justice…,” contacted.
He said that Basajjabalaba’ sagents deliberately lied that he was out of the country, but “now he is caught trying to flee …”
The DPP’s spokesperson, Jane Okuo Kajuga said on Wednesday that Basajja and his agents should be able to explain why, with full knowledge that he was wanted, sneaked to the wrong Court for plea.
She said that the charges against him were sanctioned last year by the DPP and Police had summons to him after deceiving them that he was out of the country.
She said that the case had been sanctioned for trial before the Anti-Corruption Court but that he chose to avoid the public prosecution.
The spokesperson found it strange that Basajjabalaba failed to answer Police summons but chose to go to court for private prosecution.
“We are studying the record in that Court and we are definitely taking that matter further. That is abuse of the legal process.” Kajuga said.
On the day he was arrested, the businessman was brought to the Anti-Corrupton Court under tight Police security and charged with three counts pertaining to the offence committed between 2010 and 2011.
The first charge – which he faces with his brother, Mazamiru who was not in court – was of conspiracy to defeat tax laws. The second charge is forgery of a judicial document and the third uttering the said document.
Basajjabalaba denied all three charges.
Earlier on Wednesday, the DPP took over the case from the private prosecutors in Buganda Road Court, withdrew the case to pave way for the fresh state prosecution.
Basajja’s remand followed an application by the State for time to verify the particulars of Basajjabalaba’s sureties.
The sureties are Chris Rwakasisi, Michael Mawanda (Igara MP), Margaret Muhangaa, a businesswoman and Steven KagoroMasiko.
The State Attorney said that they are suspicious because Kagoro already had presented letters from two LC areas – Namasuba and Kansanga – saying that he resides there.
“We are opposing the application for bail. We are right now not ready with our response to the bail application. We seek an adjournment to tomorrow (Thursday) at 2.00pm to respond to the application. Secondly we need to verify the particulars of the suretie,” said State Attorney Lilian Omara.
The Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa allowed the adjournment, saying that the State had a right to verify information about the sureties.
Basajjabalaba was arrested on Tuesday evening as he tried to leave the country using an East African Community Diplomatic passport.
He claimed he had a meeting with Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga the same day over matters concerning Kampala International University.