KAMPALA – The sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has exonerated property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia after its probe found that he genuinely owns the Plot 24, Kampala road.
The Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) had in July 2019 told the probe sub-committee chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi that tycoon Sudhir’s property was never reposed by the original proprietors before selling it to him.
But, in its report to Parliament that is set to be presented and adopted today, the probe sub-committee listed the country’s money magnet as the rightful owner of the property having floored DAPCB in court in 2012.
Sudhir’s case is one of the 13 cases the DAPCB has lost out of the 124 that were listed as the total number of cases involving the entity that controls the properties left behind by Asians who were expelled by President Idi Amin in 1972. The DAPCB has so far won 10 cases whereas 99 cases remain unconcluded.
By this report therefore, Parliament confirms that it cannot carry out any investigations or take a decision on this property and several others that have been pronounced on by Court or are still in Court.
Sudhir who has a record of winning high profile cases had foreseen this when he protested the Parliament’s investigation by writing to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in 14th August, 2019 letter.
“We have followed part of the ongoing COSASE inquiry regarding Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board through televised and print media. A property that belongs to Meera Investments Limited has been mentioned as part of the inquiry” reads part of Sudhir’s letter then.
The tycoon who leads the way in real estate and hospitality investment bought the property in 1995 and decided to seek judicial review in the High Court following claims over it by the Custodian Board.
COSASE is now inquiring into a matter and ownership decided upon by the High Court in 2012.
“We are seeking clarification and guidance from you whether Parliament can inquire into a matter where a decision of Court has been made or where a matter is in Court. Then whether matters in Court come to an end, parties can come to Parliament for another decision,” read part of the letter.
However, Sudhir would later appear before the probe sub-committee on 30th June 2020 to iron out the issues raised in the claims by the DAPCB.
Accompanied by his lawyers, Sudhir submitted files concerning his ownership of all the properties that were under probe and the MPs did not raise any queries as they promised to review the documents before writing their report.
During that meeting, DAPCB Executive Secretary George Willian Bizibu tried to drag the tycoon further on the ownership of Plot 24 Kampala road but Sudhir revealed that he has all documentation for the property which he bought from Mohammad Alibhai, Mustapha Alibhai on behalf of their family.
The sub-committee in its report seen by CEO East Africa Magazine does not make further mention of Sudhir in its report to Parliament concerning other properties that the DAPCB had complained about in the initial stages of the probe.
About the cases
Meanwhile, the sub-committee has named the cases that DAPCB lost and recommended that the understaffed entity be permitted to hire at least two law firms to help process the pending cases in court and those yet to come before it is winding up that is long overdue.
Some of the prime properties DAPCB had lost in court include; Plot 85 Jinja Road now in the hands of Sikh Saw Mills; Plot 11 Martin Road; Plot 195 Namirembe Road; and, Plot 4 Old Kampala. On the other hand, all the cases that DAPCB has won are outside Kampala.
Blame on DAPCB
Concerning the lost cases and those that have stagnated in Court, the MPs accused the DAPCB of having a lot of laxity in the way it files defense when sued.
“The committee also noted that in some cases failure by DAPCB to file defenses or to defend case in courts of law has caused losses of cases and as a consequence funds in costs and damages. Most cases have been in court for two years without any defense being filed by the DACPB. A case in point is on plot 19 Main Street and 41 Lubas road where government stands to lose property” the report reads in part.
During the probe, the Custodian Board pointed the finger at Attorney General William Byaruhanga’s failure to accord them legal assistance in terms of defending cases against it but on his appearance, he informed the sub-committee that his Chambers are “understaffed and fully stretched”
“All investigations into Expropriated property should only be done with the involvement of the Office of the Attorney General” the sub-committee recommends.
Adding that; “The Attorney General should immediately designate officers to work with the Board in pursuit of the proprietary interests of the Board.”
This story is courtesy of CEO