KAMPALA — The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has on Monday September 13 dropped money loundering charges against human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo.
The DPP, Jane Frances Abodo communicated her withdrawal to Principal Magistrate Grade One on Monday, September 13 —officially discharging Mr. Opiyo.
“This is to inform court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue proceedings against Opiyo Nicholas charged with Money Laundering C/S 3(c) 116 and 131 (1) a of the Anti-Money Laundering act as amended,” the statement from Justice Abodo dated Monday, September 13, reads.
High Court had recently threatened to terminate the case after government failed to produce evidence against Mr. Opiyo.
“The court is mandated to balance the right of the State to prosecute offenders to punish crime in society with the right of an accused to have a fair, speedy, and public trial before an impartial court. Consequently, I make the following orders to dispose of this application,” High Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu held.
“The prosecution (DPP) is given seven days from the date hereof, to commit the applicant (lawyer Opiyo) for trial before the High Court and disclose its case to the accused. For avoidance of doubt, this is before the closure of business on September 15, 2021 (this Wednesday),” he added.
The judge further warned that should the DPP fail to commit Mr Opiyo to the High Court for trial, his case shall be terminated.
“If after September 15, the applicant (Mr Opiyo) has not been committed for trial to the High Court, then the prosecution of the applicant in criminal case 106 of 2020 shall stand terminated under section 17 (2) of the Judicature Act to prevent abuse of the process of the court by curtailing delays in prosecuting the applicant. There are no orders as to costs,” Justice Gidudu further ordered.
Opiyo, the Executive Director of the suspended Chapter Four Uganda organization was in December 2020 arrested from a restaurant in Kamwokya and charged with money laundering after his now closed NGO, Chapter Four received $340,000 (Shs 1.2bn).
Prosecution had alleged that Mr Opiyo on October 8, 2020 at Abasa Bank, Garden City Branch, in Kampala acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2b) in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, which was proceeds of crime.
Mr Opiyo through his lawyers complained that since January, the prosecution has been updating court of how investigations into his case are in progress without being concluded.
He contended that the delay to prosecute his case has infringed on his right to a fair and speedy trial provided in Article 28 (1) of the Constitution.
In response to the application, the prosecution argued that their investigations were hampered by the Covid lockdown.
However, Mr David F. Mpanga, the lawyer representing Mr Opiyo, rejected the prosecution’s explanation on ground that banks remained open throughout the lockdown.