The Anti-corruption Court rejected Geoffrey Kazinda’s plea for a fine and sentenced him to several years in prison.
By Anne Mugisa and Edward Anyoli
KAMPALA - The Anti-corruption Court has rejected Geoffrey Kazinda’s plea for a fine and sentenced him to several years in prison. The sentence includes different prison terms ranging from two years to five years, totalling 64 years.
However, the disgraced former chief accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister will stay in prison for only five of those years because the sentences are to be served concurrently.
The court last week convicted Kazinda of abuse of office, which attracts a jail term of seven years on the maximum, forgery and making documents without authority each of which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
He was also convicted of unlawful possession of government stores, which carries a seven-year jail term.
The saga surrounding Kazinda came to the fore last year after it was discovered that billions of shillings had been siphoned out of the OPM.
Several government officials in the OPM, Ministry of Finance and Bank of Uganda were named in connection with the stolen funds.
Searches carried out by the Police at Kazinda’s and his mother’s home unearthed forged documents, which were tendered in court as exhibits.
Justice David Wangutusi, while sentencing Kazinda, said he had heard the plea by Kazinda’s lawyers for a fine for their client and the State’s prayer for the maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Wangutusi said he had also considered other factors, including the 10 months that Kazinda has spent in prison already. He sentenced Kazinda to five years in prison for abuse of office and two years each for the 25 counts of forgery and making documents without authority.
Wangutusi also gave him another five years for unlawful possession of government stores.
State Attorney Jane Frances Abodo, attends court before Principal Goeffrey Kazinda was sentenced on June 26, 2013. PHOTO/Kennedy Oryema
The judge said in deciding Kazinda’s five-year sentence for abuse of office, he considered the fact that the sentencing guidelines give three-and-a-half years as the starting point and the seven years as the maximum sentence.
In convicting Kazinda, Justice Wangutusi believed the handwriting expert, who said the signatures on the said forged documents, differed from the signature samples of then permanent secretary in the OPM Pius Bigirimana.
The judge said though the documents were not found with Kazinda or in his house, they were found in his mother’s house.
He said Kazinda was the only one who had opportunity to take the documents to his mother’s house because none of the people who could be connected to her had a chance to work in the OPM and he had dominion over his mother’s house.
With the forged documents, the judge said, were letters addressed to Kazinda. Other forged documents were found in the room of Kazinda’s nephew, Peter Lubulwa, who was living with him.
“Considering his relationship with his mother and nephew, who were his dependants, I am convinced that the accused had dominion and control over the documents.
"My view is that by keeping such documents away from his office and even after taking them home, away from his immediate contact and away from the house, in which he resided, the accused (Kazinda) can only be said to have hidden them from whoever might have come looking for them.
"The act was illegal and the possession ceased being lawful under those circumstances,” Wangutusi ruled.
He said evidence showed that Kazinda had intended to defraud using the said documents.
“It was immaterial whether the documents were put to use or not. What was important was whether they were deceitful or capable of defrauding anyone,” Wangutusi added.
Geoffrey Kazinda listens to a Prisons official while his lawyer Isaac Walukaaga lends an ear. PHOTO/Kennedy Oryema
On the making of documents without authority, he said evidence showed that Kazinda intended to use those security papers to transfer huge sums of money out of the crisis management account, purportedly to pay suppliers of food to disaster affected areas.
Wangutusi said some unknown suppliers were on the list. These were Kawesi Dauda for sh32m and St. Paul Agencies Ltd for sh36m.
Kazinda later told court that he got verbal authorisation from Bigirimana. However, Bigirimana denied giving the authority.
On illegal possession of government stores, the court ruled that though Kazinda denied being found with them, the security papers were found in his mother’s house and he could not give account of how they got there.
Wangutusi ruled that the court believed prosecution because evidence showed that Kazinda obtained them (security papers) for illegal purposes, failed to return them even when he knew he was no longer required at the OPM. He also said Kazinda failed to give account of how the papers came into his possession.
Kazinda is still on trial on more grave charges of embezzlement, false accounting and conspiracy to commit a felony jointly with a number of other officials he worked with in the OPM.
A person found guilty of embezzlement is liable to imprisonment of up to 14 years.
Kazinda gets 5-year jail sentence