By Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0714 EAT on Friday 25 March 2022.
The Court of Appeal has quashed the 15-year jail term handed to the former principal accountant at the Office of Prime Minister Geoffrey Kazinda for illicit enrichment. Instead, the court comprised of justices Fredrick Egonda Ntende, Christopher Madrama and Catherine Bamugemereire today reduced the punishment to seven years and seven months. The original sentence was handed to Kazinda in November 2020 by High court justice Margaret Tibulya and was quashed on grounds that she misdirected herself in law by taking into consideration Kazinda’s lack of remorse as an aggravating factor when sentencing him.
According to the judges, they have reduced Kazinda’s jail term on grounds that Tibulya gave him a maximum punishment while sentencing him on each of three distinct charges which discredited the fact that she had taken into consideration that he was a first time offender. The sentence that has been quashed was given to Kazinda on November 6, 2020, after being found guilty on the three charges of accumulating abnormal wealth (illicit enrichment) instituted against him by the Inspectorate of Government (IG) back in 2016.
During their investigations, the IG found out that between 2009 and 2012 Kazinda was enjoying a standard of living way above his known source of income and possessing and amassing wealth amounting to Shs 4.6 billion.
The investigations pointed out that Kazinda had rented Constellation Suites in Nakasero for ten months at a cost of Shs 210 million, had three plots of land in Bukoto valued at Shs 3.6 billion, cars including BMW, Mercedes Benz, ML class, Dodge Saloon cars all valued at Shs 769 million.
According to the prosecution, this was far above his known and declared annual income of Shs 84 million thus raising a red flag on how he acquired them. On cross-examining several witnesses and exhibits brought before court, the presiding justice found out that Kazinda had concealed the properties when he registered them under names of different persons.
For instance, the court heard that Kazinda had rented a suite in the names of his friends. However, from the evidence adduced in court, there were invoices that had been paid and signed by Kazinda. More evidence also indicated that the said cars had all been bought in the names of his friends with some testifying before court that they had been ordered by Kazinda to procure the cars in their names.
Kazinda had also transferred three land titles for pieces of land situated in Bukoto to the society of Brothers of Christian Instruction as a donation. However, court found out that he remained in full control of the pieces of land in question.
In his defense, Kazinda denied owning any of the said properties. But he argued that he could afford to live such high standards given that fact his family had a wealthy financial background and that they had received huge sums of money when they sold off some of the properties including part of the land that hosts Entebbe airport.
Kazinda also argued that apart from his family wealth, he had worked tirelessly for 15 years before he joined public service. But Kazinda who had spent five years on remand at the time of his conviction in 2020 was handed 5 years on each of the three charges which he was to serve consecutively, one after the other thereby making it 15 years.
Not happy with the decision, Kazinda challenged it on grounds that the trial judge erred in law by handing him an excessive and harsh sentence by failing to compute the income he had for 15 years among others. Apart from reducing the jail term of each of the three counts, the Court of Appeal has found that Kazinda’s conviction was properly arrived at and accordingly ordered that he should serve seven years and seven months effective November 2020.
Kazinda has been in Luzira prison since 2013 when he was first convicted of unlawfully possessing government stores and sentenced to five years and despite finishing the said sentence he was held in prison due to pending charges that continue to be brought against him by the state in pieces.