State asks court not to release three pension scam convicts

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KAMPALA- The State yesterday strongly cautioned Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma not to release on bail the three convicted pension scam convicts.

But in alternative, the State suggested to Justice Kavuma that should he wish to grant them bail, they should collectively be bonded by a whopping sum of Shs15b in cash.

The three convicts are Jimmy Lwamafa (ex-permanent secretary, Public Service ministry), Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa (ex-director, research and development) and Christopher Obey (ex-principal accountant in pensions department).

In explaining the mode of paying the Shs15b bail money, Mr Tom Walugembe, on behalf of the State, told court that Lwamafa pays Shs2b, Kunsa Shs3b and Obey Shs10b.

“As State, we strongly object to the trio bail application considering the financial losses caused to the government. But if court is inclined to grant them bail, we pray for a cash bail of Shs15b,” Mr Walugembe submitted before Justice Kavuma.

Mr Walugembe demanded that the convicts’ sureties be bonded at Shs10b and Shs15b each not cash.

In justifying the payment in exchange of their release on bail, Mr Walugembe argued that the trio committed serious offences, which involved huge sums of money that affected the Budget and should only be released on very stringent terms.

He also submitted that the trio no longer enjoy the presumption of innocence since they are convicts already and that the conditions for their release on bail pending the hearing of their appeal must be stringent.

Mr Walugembe argued that the convicts also face other charges before the Anti-Corruption Court and that releasing them on bail might not be the right decision.

But in rebuttal, the convicts’ lawyer, Mr Evans Ochieng, argued that the demands of the State are on a high-end intended to mechanically deny them bail and yet it’s their constitutional right to apply to be released on bail pending the disposal of their appeal.

“Shs15b cash bail demand from our incarcerated clients is an indirect denial of bail to them yet it is their constitutional right. Bail is not acquittal but a temporary relief,” Mr Ochieng submitted.

In justification for the release of his clients on bail, Mr Ochieng submitted to court that due to the busy schedule at the Kololo-based court that is handling election petitions, which take precedent over other matters, the hearing of their appeal may delay yet their appeal has high chances of success.

He also argued that the corruption offences for which his clients were convicted of do not involve personal violence and they are law abiding citizens who would not dodge court if released on bail.

In November last year, the Anti-Corruption Court sentenced the trio to seven, five and 10 years imprisonment respectively after being found guilty of fraudulently budgeting for Shs88.2b of pension money.
But they have since appealed their conviction and sentence before the Court of Appeal. They now seek to be released on bail pending the fixing and disposal of their appeal.

After hearing from both sides, Justice Kavuma said he will give his ruling on whether to release the trio on bail or not at a later date that was not mentioned, legally referred to as ‘ruling on notice’.

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