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The inside story of Movit boss Birungi’s arrest over Buddo fire

Simpson Birungi Founder, Entrepreneur Chairman and Managing Director (MPL Photo)

KAMPALA – The Internal Security Organisation (ISO) has arrested the proprietor of Movit products, Mr Simpson Birungi, in connection with the murder of his former employee Stephen Asaba in 2010 and the torching of Buddo Junior School in 2008 after receiving information that police officers previously handling the case files were compromised, PML Daily has learnt.

ISO boss Frank Bagyenda on Monday confirmed Birungi’s arrest, saying it came after receiving an intelligence tip but declined to divulge more details. Sources close to the investigation said Birungi was last week quizzed by police over allegations that he could have valuable information about the fire that ravaged the dormitory at Buddo Junior School in 2008, which killed 20 pupils.

He was reportedly quizzed by detectives at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and later released on police bond. However, while on his way to Nairobi for a business trip, he was intercepted by ISO bosses, re-arrested and is currently detained at an unknown location.

ISO boss Frank Bagyenda (FILE PHOTO)

CID boss Vincent Sekate confirmed that Birungi had been quizzed and granted bond but could not divulge details.  Birungi’s wife Sheila also confirmed her husband’s arrest by ISO on what she called trumped up charges and demanded his immediate release.

Whereas Sekate and Bagyenda were unwilling to divulge more information, highly placed security sources told this website that ISO was forced to resurrect the case after receiving information that police officers previously investigating the case were compromised and paid millions of shillings to kill the case.

According to available information,  Birungi’s connection to the Buddo inferno stemmed from his own misunderstanding with the then head master of Buddo Junior School, Mr William Kayongo, over a piece of land.

Mr Kayongo also owned Berkeley College School that was neighboring Movit Factory in Zzana, a city suburb.

Mr Birungi reportedly wanted to expand his business empire by buying off the school while Kayongo wanted to keep it. Other directors of the school were willing to sell their interests in the school but the majority shareholder was Kayongo who opposed the move.

Movit Products was setup in 1997 by Mr Birungi to produce cosmetic products and its initial factory was located in Zana -Bunamwaya off Entebbe Road. However, when the company grew, Mr Birungi bought off his neighbors except Kayongo, who allegedly refused to sell the land on which the school sat to him.

Berkeley College had three owners; Kayongo, George William Ssemivule, and Edith Namusisi Nabugo. Nabugo and Ssemivule were willing to sell the school but Kayongo refused.

This is said to have infuriated Birungi, who then resolved to dump waste close to the school, causing a very bad smell. The motive was to get teachers and students run away from the school but this only caused a war of words between the two.

Meanwhile, in a bid to boost his school, Kayondo and his partners borrowed huge sums of money from Barclays Bank in the rage of Shs1.2 billion. The school had around 800 students at the time and their target was 1,500. They borrowed another loan from Bank of Baroda of Shs192 million and Shs60 million from Hauder Gaundong, a Chinese company.

It is alleged that Birungi then hired three people; one Julius, one Byamukama and another Lumu to torch Buddo School Dormitories and then implicate Kayondo, who had just left the school a few months earlier.

Kayongo was jailed over negligence that led to the fire. In the process, he was unable to repay the bank loans and the banks attached his school Berkeley and his home.

Barclays is said to have auctioned the school, which was coincidentally bought by Birungi, who emerged as the highest bidder.

The charred remains of the dormitory are a stark reminder of the tragedy that befell Budo Junior

Last year, Lumu, who is said to have torched the Buddo Junior School dormitory, is said to have approached police, seeking to confess his crime.

However, the police officers he confessed to are said to have again approached Birungi, who gave them money and they also allegedly planned to finish off Lumu.

However, this mission failed because some of the officers were later arrested over other charges and are currently in prison.

Ashaba’s murder

The linking of Birungi to the alleged murder of his former manager Ashaba is that Birungi received credible information that his manager was sharing sensitive company information to another rival company called Chemical Formula.

He allegedly hired a criminal gang headed by Robert Sempebwa, aka, Kazahura to kill Ashaba at the cost of Shs50 million.

Ashaba is said to have disappeared May 21, 2010 and his body was later found found at Kasanja – Nakawuka. Kazahura was said to be a close friend of Ashaba and the latter’s wife did not even suspect him to be involved in the murder plot.

However, later police forensic investigations allegedly revealed that before his disappearance, Ashaba last spoke to Kazahura.  Kazahura and his accomplice Asiimwe Ronald aka Kanyankole were then arrested by former police commander Nickson Agasirwe, who is now in custody over the kidnap of the former body guard to Rwanda president Paul Kagame.

During interrogation, Kazahura is said to have confessed to have been hired by Birungi to commit the crime.

Agasirwe is then said to have arrested Birungi but the latter allegedly paid a bribe of Shs200m for his freedom.

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