Col Shaban Bantariza Verdict Set for Tomorrow

Col Shaban Bantariza will find out tomorrow whether he will go home a free man or to jail as a convict. The General Court Martial at Makindye is set to deliver its verdict in the fraud trial of the former director of the National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi. Bantariza’s trial stems from claims by the state that he received a tractor as a donation and purported to have bought it for Shs 67m. Bantariza has consistently denied the charges.

Out of the six state witnesses lined up, prosecution led only one witness Capt Edson Muheirwoha to prove, among other things, that the Shs 67m was withdrawn from the safe after the payment voucher was filled by him.

In his defence, Bantariza testified that after he approved the tractor purchase, Muheirwoha received the money and the tractor was bought. Bantariza told court that Muheirwoha, who was imprisoned over the matter at Makindye military barracks for a year, only testified against him to secure his release from jail.

While summing up the case on March 24, the Judge Aocate Lt Col Gideon Katinda, who aises court on legal matters, urged court to weigh facts in submissions from both parties before coming up with a verdict.

He aised the seven-member panel to look at facts such as Muheirwoha’s testimony that he did not himself purchase the tractor because he would only do so on the accused’s orders, and Bantariza’s failure to inform the undersecretary of his plan to buy the tractor.

On Bantariza’s side, Katinda said they should weigh his testimony concerning his claim that the tractor was indeed purchased at Shs 67m minus other accessories and that the said money was received by Muheirwoha and not him.

If acquitted, Bantariza will have his salary, which has been withheld since his interdiction as deputy government spokesman, paid. If guilty, he faces, for the two counts, up to nine years in jail.

Source : The Observer

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