Lugoloobi faces 7 years in jail over Karamoja Iron Sheets
The State Minister for Planning Amos Lugoloobi could face seven years in jail or a fine of 160 currency points (Shs3.2 million) or both if found guilty of mismanaging the iron sheets that were meant for the Karamoja region.
The Minister who represents Ntenjeru North in Kayunga district yesterday broke down in tears before a fully-packed courtroom where he was slapped with charges of dealing with suspect property contrary to Section 21A of the Anti-Corruption Act.
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The state prosecution told court that Mr Lugoloobi between July 14, 2022, and February 2022 at stores of the Office of the Prime Minister in Namanve, Mukono District and in Matugga, Wakiso District and Ntenjeru North Constituency in Kayunga District, dealt with government property, to wit; 400 pre-painted iron sheets marked “Office of the Prime Minister”.
According to state prosecution, the minister allegedly committed this offence well knowing that the said iron sheets were acquired as a result of the loss of public property.
On the second count of the same charge, the prosecution contended that the minister between the same period and same places dealt with 300 pre-painted iron sheets.
Responding to the charges, Lugoloobi denied any wrongdoing in relation to the Mabaati scandal and therefore pleaded not guilty before Senior Grade one Magistrate EBert Asiimwe.
“Your worship, I have heard and understood the charges, I am not guilty…,” the minister said before he was remanded to Luzira Prison until Thursday this week when he returns for his bail application hearing.
Through his legal team, Lugoloobi had presented a total of seven sureties for his bail but the magistrates concurred with the prosecution team that they needed to be accorded more time to study the documents presented by the sureties before letting the minister released.
Among the seven sureties present before the court included Namutumba Woman MP Hon Mariam Naigaga, EALA MP Hon James Kakooza, Kiboga East MP Dr Kefa Kiwanuka, Moses Kalangwa, the NRM Chairperson in Kayunga district and a prominent businessman.
Others were Mr Paul Mugambwa Sempa, a former ambassador of Uganda to Brazil; Mr Martin Ssekaja, Head of Operations at Uganda Security Printing Company and Dr Joseph Muvawaala, the executive director of National Planning Authority/Busoga Kingdom prime minister.
Shortly after the Monday afternoon court session, some of the Minister’s constituents lamented that their MP had done a lot for the government and that it was unfair to have him paraded before court.
Lugoloobi is one of the ministers who last Friday returned iron sheets to the OPM’s stores in Namanve, following President Museveni’s orders to his ministers to return the irons sheets or pay in cash the equivalent of the value of items.
He was however arrested that evening reportedly en route to Entebbe International Airport and spent the weekend in police custody at Kira Division Police until Monday when he was arraigned in court.
What the law says
According to Section 21A of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009, that relates to dealing with suspected stolen property;
(1) A person who deals with property that he or she believes or has reason to believe was acquired as a result of an offence under this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred and sixty currency points or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person deals with the property if that person—
(a) holds, receives or conceals the property;
(b) enters into a transaction in relation to the property or causes such a transaction to be entered into; or
(c) removes the property from the jurisdiction of court for the purpose of assisting any person to avoid confiscation of that property.
Lugoloobi is the second Cabinet minister to be charged in connection with the alleged diversion and mismanagement of iron sheets meant for the vulnerable in Karamoja.
Karamoja Affairs Minister Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu was the first to face court and detention in Luzira where she was remanded until Friday, April 14 when she released on a cash bail of Shs10 million.
Dr Kitutu is jointly charged with her younger brother, Mr Michael Naboya Kitutu and Mr Joshua Abaho, the senior assistant secretary, Ministry of Karamoja Affairs in OPM.