Mugerwa Dominic and Muhwezi Abias being former employees of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), in the Domestic Taxes Department Jinja, were jointly charged at the Anti-Corruption Court Division of the High Court with offences of abuse of office, causing financial loss, and false claims by officials, contrary to the provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009.
Each of these offences had 7 counts, making a total of 27 counts charged and they both pleaded not guilty. The prosecution led evidence from 18 witnesses, whilst the appellants gave sworn evidence and called no witnesses in their defense.
It was the prosecution’s case that the appellants between the months of January 2014 to September 2014, approved impugned VAT refund payments of UGX 6,452,116,773 to M/S Rising Star Commodities Ltd.
The said company had purportedly exported brown sugar it bought from Kakira Sugar Works Ltd to a Kenyan Company- Gemini Traders Ltd. In his duties, Muhwezi Abias was responsible for preparing audit plans, auditing, and verifying taxpayers’ claims for VAT refund, while Mugerwa Dominic was responsible for approving the audit plans, and VAT refund/payment.
The trial court presided over by Hon. Justice Mr. Paul K. Mugamba J, as he then convicted the appellants of all counts and sentenced each to 5 years imprisonment on each count of abuse of office, 10 years imprisonment on each count of causing financial loss, and 2 years imprisonment on each count of false claims by officials.
The sentences were to run concurrently and they were also disqualified from holding a public office for a period of 10 years. Court declined to make an order for compensation of the amounts lost.
Being aggrieved and dissatisfied with their conviction and sentence, the Appellants lodged an appeal in the Court of appeal, challenging both the conviction and sentence. The appeal was premised on 9 grounds of appeal. The Appellants filed a Miscellaneous Application No. 140 of 2019 seeking to adduce further evidence which application was granted whereupon the Appellants presented a Memorandum of Understanding entered into by URA and Shah Jagdish the Managing Director of Rising Star Commodities the beneficiary of the VAT refund.
The Court of Appeal presided over by Hon Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Hon Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and Hon Justice Remmy Kasule gave its judgement on 03rd December 2021 dismissing the appeal and confirming the conviction and sentence of the High Court.
The appellants were ordered to serve 5 years imprisonment on each count of abuse of office, 10 years imprisonment on each count of causing financial loss, and 2 years imprisonment on each count of false claims by officials. The Court also noted that URA’s having entered into an MOU with Shah Jagdish for refund of the amounts fraudulently paid to Rising Star Commodities does not in any way arbitrate the case against the appellants.
The appellants were represented by Macdosman Kabega and Simon Bakole while the prosecution team comprised of George Okello and Bakanansa Hilda Walaga of Legal Service and Board Affairs Department, URA.