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Ministers named in fraudulent takeover of Asian properties

Mr George William Bizibu, executive secretary of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on July 16, 2019. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA – The Parliamentary probe into the fraudulent takeover of departed Asians properties has kicked off with five living and deceased ministers cited in the illegal give away of hundreds of government properties under the auspice of the custodian board.

The matter came to light as MPs on the select Committee interfaced with officials from the Departed Asian Custodian Board who told MPs that some of these properties were dished out given out without repossession letters and resolutions of the divesture board and final approval of the minister for finance.

The Custodian Board pointed out Mayanja Nkagi former Uganda Land Commission boss, Moses Kintu who served under the Amin regime, Fred Omach former State Minister for Investment, Aston Kajara, Charles Kadama who are accused of usurping powers of Minister of Finance with sole powers to issue these certificates.

In its very first meeting, the select commission comprised of MPs from the Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), lawmakers established that the disposal of the properties never met the requisite procedures and up to today the occupants of the properties are not known and the government is not in a position to collect dues or dispose of the said properties.

Irene Julu, Director at Custodian Board said that although it was her duty to verify certificates before properties are sold, her hands were tied with no control over the fraud.

“If you ask any person, I have been the one making these certificates and I try to work very diligently, but sometimes you see certificates flying across your face, they jump on top of your head, it is passing through your armpits, what do you do about it? I am somebody without authority?” She noted.

With calls from the Custodian Board members to have their security boosted for fear of their lives, Julu added, “Sometimes you just let things pass there is nothing you can do about it. they wouldn’t tell you but you would find it is gone.”

Some of the properties under question include 200 properties under Sikh Saw millers and ginners, 39A martin road, plot 14 Ben Kiwanuka Street, plot 524 Mengo Kintu road and one housing the Kampala Boulevard building on Kampala Road owned by Sudir Ruparelia among others.

Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Pius Bigirimana is said to have fraudulently acquired property at Prince Charles Drive in Kololo, businessmen Drake Lubega and Mansul Matovu had their names pop up in the probe.

The committee directed the Custodian Board to present a list of properties whose current owners are not known and also a list of those that were illegally reposed as well as details of all cases in court on the contested properties.

It should be recalled that in 1972, President Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda and defended his decision on grounds that Asians were sabotaging the economy to the extent that expatriated capital and profits were draining the country of wealth and agreed to pay the Asians who lost their property, by setting up a fund at Bank of Uganda with Asians who left for Canada and England paid through the Uganda High Commission for the value of their properties and 30% as disturbance allowance.

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