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Is COSASE messing up Asian property inquiry?

Is COSASE messing up Asian property inquiry?
MP Ibrahim Kasozi

Kampala businessman Sudhir Ruparelia yesterday snubbed summons by Parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) investigating acquisition of properties from the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB).

The DAPCB was formed to assist Asians who abandoned properties when President Idi Amin expelled them in 1972 to repossess them. However some Asians were compensated as their properties were transferred to Ugandans by way of buying them from DAPCB.

COSASE had invited Sudhir to appear before the committee to explain how he acquired five properties that a whistle blower alleged were never repossessed from DAPCB and should be in government possession. But the committee has failed to differentiate properties that were sold by DAPCB and properties some Ugandans acquired from individuals.

Sudhir didn’t show up for the summons yesterday, but His lawyers Walusimbi & Co. Advocates had on Tuesday asked COSASE Chairperson Ibrahim Kasozi to explain why their client should appear before Parliament given that he never acquired the properties from DAPCB, but from individuals and private companies.

Kasozi has named five properties that the committee is interested in. The properties are Plot 23 on Jinja Road, Plot 24 on Kampala Road, Plot 5 on Colville Street, Plot 3 and 5 on Bombo Road in Kampala and Plot 26 on Republic Street in Mbale.

Sudhir’s lawyers wrote back on the same day. “Our client reiterates that he has in all instances not purchased any of the said properties from the Departed Asians Custodian Board, which your esteemed committee is inquiring into.”

The lawyers went ahead to expound on the status of the properties the committee was interested in.

On Plot 43, Jinja Road: “Our clients records do not reflect this description. He has instructed us to carry out a further search at the land registry and revert to him at the earliest.”

The lawyers argued that Plot 24 on Kampala Road was resolved by a court decision between Meera Investments Ltd and DAPCB and can’t be subjected to an inquiry.

Nelson Walusimbi, Sudhir’s lawyer also adduced evidence by way of a title with transfer details indicating that the tycoon purchased Plot 8 Colville Street from the then registered proprietor, Uganda Theatres Limited.

He added that Plot 26, Republic Street Mbale was purchased from Nakasero Soap Works. Plot 3 &5 Bombo Road were purchased from Joint Ven (U) Ltd.

“Our client requests for specific information about any possible dealings the honourable committee estimates he may have had with the statutory body so that he responds to those,” Walusimbi wrote.

However, it is said some sections of the public is that some members of the committee tried to use the “summons” as way to extort money from the tycoon, but he has stood his ground indicating that his properties were legally acquired them from private individuals and from DAPCB.

Days ago the Uganda Law Society (ULS), an umbrella association of lawyers in Uganda wrote to Speaker of Parliament about COSASE’s conduct of summoning lawyers to appear before parliament on matters related to DAPCB, saying some cases are in court, which would violate the Sub Judice Rule.