The Anti-Corruption Court on Wednesday discontinued the abuse of office charges against the interdicted Lands Commissioner Sarah Kulata Basangwa, citing lack of authority by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to prosecute her while there is another case touching the same matter.
The short preliminary ruling of the head of the Anti-Corruption Court, Justice Paul Mugamba, was read by Grade One Magistrate Sarah Langa Siu.
Kulata had been accused of hastily and illegally parceling out land worth 11 billion shillings to Kikonyogo Investments Ltd.
In the ruling, the judge cited Section 19 (1) c of the IGG Act which states that the IGG shall not have power to question or review any civil matter which is before court at the commencement of the Inspectorate’s investigations.
Justice Mugamba added that the spirit behind that provision is to leave courts free rein to determine matters they are already seized with. Any subsequent investigations or prosecution by whatever means sought could defeat that spirit, according to the judge.
Following this legal opinion by Justice Mugamba after the matter was late last year referred to him for interpretation, the trial Magistrate Langa based on it and discontinued the criminal charges against Kulata and discharged her accordingly.
Through her lawyers led by Michael Okecha, Kulata had argued that the IGG is barred from prosecuting her while there is a civil matter touching the same case in another court. The lawyers cited section 19 (1) c of the IGG Act to support their argument. The IGG in response, had argued that the criminal matter takes precedence over the civil one before asking the court to go ahead and have her enter plea.
The charge sheet had alleged that Ms Kulata hastily and illegally registered numerous plots of land worth $4million in the names of Kikonyogo Investments Ltd, which is not the legitimate proprietor.
The land measuring about 300 acres and located in Wakiso district was believed to belong to M/S Lakeside City Limited and owned by the Damani family of Asian origin. The IGG had alleged that Kulata committed this offence between July 9 and August 4 2011 at the land Registry in Kampala.
Shortly after the ruling, a visibly excited Kulata said she was relieved but not surprised that she has been set free.
Sydney Asubo, the head of prosecution at the IGG who had been prosecuting this matter since late last year, said he would appeal against the ruling.