PIC: Deputy IGG, George Bamugemereire. The deputy IGG said the draft will ensure asset recovery speaks out on the Gov't draft to probe persons with suspicious wealth. (File
KAMPALA - Government has embarked on a process of drafting a law that will enable it recover properties or assets that are unlawfully obtained by members of the public.
This will also apply to persons who are unable to explain the source of their wealth.
“It pays to hit criminals where it hurts more and that is through recovering their assets,” said Grace Atwongyeire, the principal legal officer at the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity under the Office of the President.
Atwongyeire made the above remarks while presenting a draft copy of the proposed bill to a cross section of stakeholders in the fight against corruption at Hotel Africana on Friday last week.
Whereas Uganda has relevant laws in place such as the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2015, the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013. The Penal Code Act, among others that are geared towards fighting corruption, she said there are still legal gaps that hinder effective recovery of proceeds of crime.
The most common action taken on corruption and other criminal offences, Atwongyeire argued, has ended at prosecution of suspects in the criminal courts of law and the State has, even where prosecution is successful, seldom recovered proceeds, benefits or instrumentalities of crime.
“The culprits, later after serving sentence, return to enjoy the proceeds they illegally obtained from their criminal activities,” she noted.
The proposed draft however looks at consolidating current provisions in different laws on recovery of proceeds of crimes.
It will also provide for non-conviction based/civil asset forfeiture of proceeds of crime.
It will also make provisions for abandoned and unclaimed property, compensation of victims and allow international mutual legal assistance in tracing and identifying proceeds or instruments of crime, among others.
Speaking at the one day workshop, George Bamugemereire the deputy IGG said, “We are looking for a time where a person who owns so many assets can get to a point where they become beggars because their assets have been sold, the house they live in has been lost, the wife or husband has left, the children are ashamed of them.”
“Until we get to that point, we actually won’t be able to fight corruption. And we do not need one example, we need 10, 20, 100 people who will walk past buildings and say they used to own them but it happened through theft.
"Such people need to be ostracized, isolated, left alone instead of being lifted and glorified in places they do not belong,” he added.
Emphasizing asset recovery as one of the most effective tools believed to create impact in the fight against corruption, Bamugemereire said whereas Government has done everything to eliminate the vise, there is still a feeling that it (corruption) is not being tackled as desired.
He said, corruption if allowed to grow, is capable of destabilizing the country.
Advocates concealing property
Meanwhile, Josephine Namatovu, the deputy head asset recovery department, at the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), blamed some advocates for concealing property of the accused persons caught in corruption scandals whish she said is a hindrance to the fight against corruption.
Namatovu who made a presentation on recovery and identification of victims of crime, stated that some advocates/lawyers deliberately frustrate the prosecution arm of Government by recovering assets of persons who have been allegedly accused of corruption.
“The names of accused persons cannot be traced in the registrar of companies neither in Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and this complicates our work in looking for the assets of the accused,” she said.
She called for the expansion of investigations to include the next of kin, children and close relatives saying some culprits have the tendency to register unlawfully acquired property in the names of the above categories.
The workshop was organized by IGG in conjunction with Sugar Taf aimed at identifying gaps in the current legal framework as far as crime law is concerned.
State minister for ethics and integrity Fr. Simon Lokodo also faulted law enforcers especially magistrates in the courts of law who he said often ‘shield’ criminals.
“We have many laws in place but implementation is what bothers me sometimes. Your (law enforcers) standard of proof is a problem. Why should you say ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to even a criminal that has been caught red handed?” Lokodo wondered.