Kazinda Fights to Block New Charges

Prosecution is weighing a third string of fraud charges against the jailed former principal accountant in the Office of Prime Minister (OPM), Geoffrey Kazinda.

Kazinda is serving a five-year jail sentence after his earlier conviction for fraud charges. The announcement of fresh charges was made on Monday as Kazinda took plea for a second round of 73 counts of forgery, conspiracy to commit a felony and causing financial loss of Shs 14.8bn.

Before the High court’s Anti-corruption division, Kazinda is jointly charged with Gilbert Okello, David Mugisha, and Bright Atwine, all officials from the ministry of Finance. After all four pleaded not guilty to the charges, Kazinda’s lawyer, Richard Omongole, presented an application for a referral of the case to the Constitutional court for interpretation.

The lawyer argued that charging his client with “almost similar charges”, of which he was convicted, was unconstitutional.

“My lord, Article 137(1) and (5) of the Constitution and more specifically Article 28 on the issue of fair hearing and other articles don’t allow another trial of someone who is already serving a sentence on earlier charges similar to new ones framed,” Omongole said.

He said the auditor general’s report, which was used as evidence in an earlier case against him, was the same report prosecution intended to rely on in the second case. That, he argued, amounted to double jeopardy.

In response, Principal Senior State Attorney Vincent Wagona said: “AI [Kazinda] having been OPM principal accountant for four years carried out a lot of fraudulent transactions and investigations took a long time as more information surfaced. Even now, more investigations are on-going and he is likely to be charged with a third batch of charges.”

He said nothing barred the state from bringing more separate charges in Kazinda’s case. Wagona said referring the case to the Constitutional court would undermine the capacity of the High court to handle the case. He said by the time they first charged Kazinda, all evidence was not available. It trickled in later in bits, he said.

“It is not enough to allege that a constitutional provision has been violated, one who alleges must substantiate and prove,” added Wagona. Court will rule on July 28.

In relation to the forgery counts, prosecution alleges that between December 2011 and January 2012, Kazinda forged signatures contained on security papers for various payments, purporting to show that they belonged to the then OPM Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana, whereas they did not.

Source : The Observer

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