IN February 2005, Emma Katto was charged with offering a bribe to Gen. Caleb Akandawanaho, a.k.a Salim Saleh, allegedly to influence him to award him a tender to supply MI-24 attack helicopters to the Ministry of Defence. The ministry wanted to buy four choppers at sh11b.
Kattoâ€™s case came up as a result of a judicial commission of inquiry which established that there was fraud in the purchase of helicopter gunships in 1997. It also established that the choppers, delivered in 1998, were faulty and could not perform the duties for which they were purchased. In a report, the commission, headed by Justice Julia Ssebutinde, recommended that those implicated be prosecuted.
Prosecution, led by the deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Simon Byabakama (now High Court Judge), said Katto, between 1996 and 1998 in Kampala and Gulu, offered a bribe to Salim Saleh, through his (Kattoâ€™s) Consolidated Sale Corporation (CSC). Saleh was a presidential adviser on military and political affairs for northern Uganda.
Kwame Ruyondo, a city businessman, who introduced Katto to Saleh, denied knowledge of the bribe Katto.
Before the Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate, Margaret Tibulya, he said his role was to arrange meetings between Katto and Salim Saleh. Ruyondo said he learnt of the bribe from press reports and the commission of inquiry, which probed the deal.
Ruyondo said he did not know whether the final decision for the purchase of the helicopters lay with Saleh or the defence officials.
Ruyondo, who was the first prosecution witness, said Saleh instructed him to deliver the supply proposal from Katto to the defence ministry. He said at the time, he was working for Salehâ€™s company, Efforte Corporation. He told the court that he had known Katto for 27 years.
Another principal witness was Saleh. He told court that he was promised a commission, not a bribe, in the helicopter supply deal. He said there was no law barring him from transacting business with anybody because he had been retired from the army.
Saleh explained that Consolidated Sales Corporation offered a commission for the deal after the successful completion of the contract.
â€œI have explained this to everybody, to the President, Justice Julia Ssebutinde and the Police, but everybody decided to call it a bribe other than its proper name, a commission for service,â€ Saleh said while testifying in court.
Saleh testified that CSC, promised to pay the commission to his company, Calebâ€™s International, but it never honoured the promise. He said he knew CSC through Katto, who came with business offers, ranging from supply of vehicles to aircraft. He added that Katto wanted Caleb International to market the products.
Saleh said they zeroed in on vehicles and helicopters and he asked Katto to make a comprehensive offer to the Ministry of Defence.
He added that they discussed the commission in a gentlemanâ€™s agreement and it was supposed to be 12% of the contract sum. He said CSC was to supply four helicopters, spares and ammunition, whose value he could not remember well, but was either $8m or $12m.
Saleh told court that after their agreement, he told Katto to get in touch with defence ministry officials and shortly after, he was assigned to the north as presidential adviser on civilâ€“military relations. He said he did not hear from Katto for six months, until he went to Gulu. Saleh said the contract was concluded and the helicopters were supplied, but that he heard later that they were not according to specification.
Another witness was Taban Kyamulesire. He said Katto was introduced to defence by Saleh, through his (Salehâ€™s) company, Efforte Corporation. Kyamulesire said members of the reserve force were part of the defence forces but not paid by the UPDF, except when recalled and deployed.
Simon Byabakama submitted prosecution had proved a case against Katto that he offered an inducement to a public officer and asked court to convict him as charged.
Byabakama told court that all the ingredients of bribery had been proved. He argued that some of the major ingredients like giving, promising or offering a bribe were sufficiently proved.
Bob Kasango, the lawyer who represented Katto, said they did not have any case to answer, arguing that prosecution had failed to prove its case.
â€œThe prosecution has not made a sufficient case to require the accused to be put on his defence and section 127 of the Magistrateâ€™s Court Act provides that if a case is not made out against the accused to require him or her to make a defence, the court shall dismiss the case and forthwith acquit him or her,â€ Kasango said.
Kasango argued that no offer was made to Saleh by Katto. He asked Tibulya to acquit Katto.
Tibulya ruled that if a major ingredient of the offence is not proved, then no reasonable tribunal, properly directing its mind to the law and evidence before it, could convict an accused person. â€œThe stateâ€™s own evidence is that no felonious giving, promising or offering of any inducement ever took place.
Saleh was clear that what was negotiated was a commission, which according to him, was quite proper, since he was not an officer or a servant of a public body.
He was running a marketing company, M/S Caleb International, which the accused approached to market his services for a commission.â€
Tibulya added: â€œThis evidence renders the corruption charge irrelevant. There is no evidence of corruption where two businessmen agree to do business, or to give each other a business opportunity as was the case.
â€œIn the absence of evidence of any felonious giving, promising or offering of a gratification, there is nothing the accused should be required to explain.â€
â€œI find no merit in the charges. I acquit the accused under section 127 of the Magistrateâ€™s Court Act,â€ Tibulya ruled.
WHO IS EMMA KATTO?
Emma Katto was born in 1958. He is a prominent rally driver and businessman. He started rallying in 1984, but it was not until 10 years later, in 1994, that he won his first national rally championship. He won the title again in 1996 and 1997. He was crowned Sportsman of the Year by the Uganda Sports Press Association in 1997.
Kattoâ€™s love for motor sports goes back to his childhood when he used to watch the East African Safari rally, something that he fell in love with and promised to be part of, Katto does not only have skills in motor rally, cricket, or long tennis, but he is also good at business.
Those in the motor sport who know Katto well, says he is a determined person with huge ambitions and always wants things put right. His motto is, â€œPractice as much as possible and work very hard in whatever you do. Never give upâ€. As a businessman, his life has been more checkered.
He was accused of supplying â€œjunkâ€ military helicopters to the Government in 1996 and offering bribes to top government officials to secure the contract. The deal became the subject of a judicial commission of enquiry, resulting in Kattoâ€™s prosecution. He was acquitted in June 2005.
Katto in court over junk chopper bribe