The magistrate ordered the businessman to pay sh2.6m, which UNBS will use to destroy the illegally produced polythene bags
City businessman Francis Drake Lubega has pleaded guilty to manufacturing plastic bags, which do not conform to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) standards.
Lubega, 60, who spent a night in Luzira Prison, made the confession on Wednesday when he appeared before the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court. The court was presided over by Grade One Magistrate Marion Mangeni.
Lubega also the managing director of Jesco Industries Limited was on Tuesday charged and remanded to Luzira Prison until Wednesday when he regained his freedom after entering into a plea deal with UNBS to pay a fine instead of facing a jail term.
Lubega was charged with two counts of manufacturing of non-conforming plastic bags and making a false statement or a representation on a commodity contrary to section 26, 27 and 28 of the UNBS Act, 2013, respectively.
When Grade One Magistrate Marion Mangeni read out the charges to him, the visibly dejected Lubega pleaded guilty.
Lubega owns a number of properties in Kampala and has been embroiled in a number of property rows with fellow businessmen including former rally driver, Charles Muhangi.
UNBS senior legal officer, Caroline Agonzibwa submitted that on August 6, 2019, a surveillance team from the standards body led by Senior Superintendent of Police, Sarah Nantongo, went to conduct a routine inspection at Jesco Industries in Bweyogerere and found the anomalies.
Agonzibwa added that the team found plastic bags that were below 30 microns at Lubega’s factory, which is contrary to the UNBS Act, 2013. UNBS allows the manufacture of polythene bags above 30 microns.
“The team seized all the 111 cartons of the polythene bags, which bore a sign of UNBS that was illegally fixed on them to show that the products complied with the standards whereas not,” she told the court.
As a result, Agonzibwa said they opened a case against Jesco Industries and the company director (Lubega) was summoned and eventually charged.
“Your Worship, we have entered into a plea-bargaining with the accused. I have consulted the UNBS director and did not object to the proposal. I invite the court to accept it,” Agonzibwa submitted. She also tendered in court the plea bargain document to that effect.
On count one, Lubega was fined 2,000 currency points (sh40m). On the second count, he was fined 1,000 currency points (sh20m). Each currency point is equivalent to sh20,000.
The magistrate also ordered Lubega to pay sh2.6m, which UNBS will use to destroy the illegally produced polythene bags by burning. This means Lubega had to pay sh62.2m to regain his freedom.
According to Section 43 of the UNBS Act as amended, penalties in respect of contravention of any regulation, a fine not exceeding 500 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both in case of a first offence and in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a fine not exceeding 500 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.
Lubega had to be jailed for a period of up to eight years for the two counts under the UNBS Act, 2013 as amended.
UNBS says that on August 6, 2019, at Jesco Industries Limited in Bweyogerere, Wakiso district, Lubega manufactured for sale of 111 cartons of Nzito brand packaging bags, 47 cartons of Jesco brand packaging bags and 19 cartons of Jesco black packaging bag brand.
It also says that the packaging bags do not conform to requirements of US773:2017, a specification for plastic carrier and flat bags.
UNBS is responsible for the formulation, promotion of the use of, and the enforcement of standards in the protection of the environment, public health and safety.