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Court relaxes Minister Lugoloobi’s bail terms

The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has allowed an application in which State Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi sought relaxation of bail terms imposed on him.

In April, Lugoloobi was arraigned in the Anti-Corruption Court and charged with dealing with suspect property after having been implicated in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program.

The prosecution alleges at Lugoloobi while at the office of the Prime Minister Stores in Namanve in Mukono District and at different places in Matuga, Wakiso District and Ntenjeru North Constituency in Kayunga District dealt with government property that is 700 pre-painted iron sheets marked ‘Office of the Prime Minister.

According to the prosecution, the iron sheets which were reportedly acquired as a result of loss of property an offense under section 10 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Court were obtained in two phases with one involving 400 iron sheets between July 14th, 2022, and February 2023, and another batch of 300 iron sheets obtained between February 1st, 2023 and March 16th, 2023.

He was granted a cash bail of ten million Shillings and his movements were restricted within Uganda, unless with permission from the Court.

On July 4th, 2023, Lugoloobi filed an application seeking to relax the orders issued by Acting Senior Principal Grade One Magistrate Abert Asiimwe. He asked Court to return his diplomatic passport indefinitely since his line of work requires him to travel all the time.

Lugoloobi’s lawyers led by Tonny Tumukunde told the court that the Minister has been formally invited to different conferences ever since the bail was granted by the court.

The lawyers said, for instance, Lugoloobi was last week invited to the Africa Agricultural Policy Leadership Dialogue and a retreat of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Kigali Rwanda.

The other invitations were for the Salm Dialogue for Economic Cooperation Conference, Economic Recovery within the Time Framework of South and Triangular Cooperation in Italy, and he has other events in South Korea among others.

Lugoloobi indicated that the meetings are important because they will serve as meaningful for Uganda and other partner states to achieve budgetary targets towards sustainable Development.

He said that the Permanent Secretary and the Minister for General duties, who is the focal point Minister for Sustainable Development Goals are aware of the trip.

Tumukunde said his client has already demonstrated to the court that he will not abscond from trial once his passport is returned to him because he used it to go to Lusaka Zambia and he returned it to court.

He also said Lugoloobi has children and a wife and many responsibilities in the country like serving the people of Kayunga District, Parliament, Formulation of Fiscal and Monetary policies, Control and Management of Public Funds among others and therefore he won’t run away.

However, the prosecution led by Gloria Izukuru asked the court to dismiss the application saying that when Lugoloobi was granted bail, he did not gain his temporary freedom for the purposes of making regular travels outside the country but instead to enable him to secure medical treatment.

The prosecution while relying on an affidavit of Senior State Attorney Sarafina Bireke, said there is no evidence to show that court will be burdened by the applications for the release of his passport.

According to the prosecution, the readiness and willingness for Lugoloobi to observe the varied terms are speculative, and prejudicial and offend the interest of justice because he is not the only government official or Minister who can travel abroad to represent Uganda at functions and high-level meetings.

In her ruling, the Anti-Corruption Court Chief Magistrate, Pamela Lamunu said that although the prosecution opposed the case, the court has taken note of the frequent official travel needs of Lugoloobi proved by various invitation letters attached to his application.

Lamunu said that given the evidence stated by the Minister, the circumstances warrant the variation of the bail conditions for the release of his diplomatic passport into his custody indefinitely since he is a serving Minister of Finance and Planning who has satisfied the court that the nature of his job requires frequent travels out of the country.

“Again, Court takes cognizance of the fact that indeed some of these travels require prior visa and travel arrangements, depending on the laws of the different countries. It is no doubt that sometimes procedures for such arrangements are elaborate and require time. It is the opinion of the court that is only fair to make it less tedious for the applicant to process these travels”, said Lamunu.

According to Lamunu, the court previously gave the Minister his passport twice and he indeed returned it after travel.

She said besides, other securities such as Lugoloobi’s land title and National Identification Card still remain in court and the records for his sureties are still on the court record and they remain bound to the same, should Lugoloobi abscond from the trial.

Lamunu said as such, there is no way how the state is going to be prejudiced if the passport is given back to him indefinitely since it does not exempt him from attending the trial.

Lamunu ordered that Lugoloobi’s passport be given back to him indefinitely to enable him to perform his state duties. She said that his lawyers or Lugoolobi will officially inform the Registrar whenever he has a journey out of the country with evidence indicating his destination and date of return.

She added that failure to comply with the guidelines will lead to a recall of the passport to court and the rest of the bail conditions remain unchanged.

Source: Independent