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Malicious! Ex-MTN boss seeks Shs 2.8bn in damages in fresh legal battle over his criminal prosecution

Former Senior manager in charge of public access at MTN Uganda, Richard Mwami, has slapped former employer with a lawsuit seeking 2.8bn in damages citing that fraud charges were levelled on him in bad faith (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Telecom giant, MTN Uganda, is headed for yet another bigger trouble as its former senior manager in charge of public access Richard Mwami dragged them to court over ‘malicious prosecution’.

Mr. Mwami who was in 2013, prosecuted by the company at the anti-corruption court on key among others charges corruption, neglect of duty, conspiracy to defraud MTN of Shs8 billion mobile money wants the Telecom together with government to pay him damages amounting to Shs2.8 billion.

Just like many other legal battles where MTN Uganda has lost to a number of its former staff, Justice Lawrence Gidudu, in 2015, dismissed the charges against Mwami saying all charges were brought in bad faith.

Justice Gidudu ruled that “I have found no evidence to support the allegations,” adding that “the charges were brought in bad faith. He is in my view a potential prosecution witness who should have bolstered the prosecution case.”

Also according to the ruling, MTN Uganda failed to adduce enough evidence against Mwami to warrant at least any of charges preferred against him.

The Court stated that “He was not negligent but diligent.”

From that background, three years down the road, Mwami has resolved battle MTN Uganda and government seeking damages to his reputation.

According to court documents seen by this website, Mwami through his longtime lawyers of AF Mpanga and Company Advocates, he wants to coerce MTN Uganda and government to pay a high price over malice and illegal prosecution.

Mwami who claims he was only responsible for executing marketing and sales strategy plan for the Public Access Department, roll out Mobile Money initiatives, and to supervise a number of staff clams, he didn’t have access rights on the Fundamo system, from which the money was allegedly stolen from.

He also alleges that all charges levelled against him that also included embezzling company funds were in bad faith and therefore MTN Uganda and government should pay him.

Court processes background

According to court documents, the fracas started in mid-December 2011 when a Patrick Ssentongo, former financial administrator abruptly informed Mwami that he was leaving MTN for a job with the United Nations in Nairobi (Kenya).

Mwami regarded Ssentongo’s resignation as sudden, according to documents.

Mwami instructed Barbara Nalukwago, a business analyst at MTN, to run a review of transactions performed by Ssentongo in consideration of Ssentongo’s seniority together with his high-level access rights to Mobile Money platform.

When Nalukwago examined the transaction on the Fundamo account, she, according to documents, discovered a number of significant irregularities and unusual transactions done by Ssentongo in which over Shs1 billion was missing.

In 2013, the suit, which is now before Justice Lydia Mugambe, says that Ssentongo was arrested by Violent Crimes Crack Unit (VCCU) and was tortured over a number of days in order to confess to having participated in the theft but also implicates Mwami.

It was a result of Ssentongo’s charge and caution statement, which was retrieved under duress, that Mwami was arraigned before the anti-graft court, the suit goes on.

The lawyers claim their client received negative press coverage in several newspapers and online news sites for having defrauded MTN, a prosecution that damaged his reputation and continued to cause him to suffer stigma over negative press exposure.

In the recent staff shake-up, the MTN Uganda tapped a seasoned telecom legal mind Enid Edroma to head its legal and regulatory department as court battles with former employees take centre stage.

Ms Edroma replaced Anthony Katamba after the company lost several legal battles against staff in the criminal courts and several other legal and regulatory issues.

MTN has previous been dragged to court by staff and a number of its clients over cheating them with the recent one being SMS empire Ltd.

SMS empire LTD claims that MTN Uganda grabbed the database they had compiled for eight years and also withheld payments of about Shs3 billion that was supposed to be paid to them for the services.

MTN also recently was on spotlight after an association of VAS providers had petitioned the President, the parliament and UCC to investigate company on several allegations of violating contracts, anti-competition, under-declaring revenue, and withholding payments to companies.

Also, this is not the first time Mwami is suing MTN.

In 2015, the Commercial Court ordered MTN to pay Shs2.3 billion in damages to EzeeMoney Limited, a company in which Mwami is the chief executive, for sabotaging its business.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) recently confirmed that cabinet gave them a node to renew MTN license for more 10 years.

The company is currently enjoying a one-month contract bonus given to them last month after their operating permit expired on October 20, 2018.

Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of UCC– the regulator of the communications sector in Uganda said MTN will get a 10-year licence before the expiry of 30-day provisional licence.

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