Man prosecuted over Mobile Money fraud demands Shs2.8bn in damages from MTN

Richard Mwami claims that his prosecution, which was spearheaded by the state with MTN as the complainant, was a clear show of absence of reason and bad faith because they knew it that he didn’t have access rights on the Fundamo system , from which the money was allegedly stolen from.

COURT | Richard Mwami has gone to the High Court demanding Shs2.8 billion from his former employers MTN Uganda and the government for what he terms as “malicious prosecution”.

In 2013, Mwami, who was MTN’s senior manager in charge of public access, was prosecuted at the Ant-corruption court on charges that ranged from embezzlement, corruption by neglect of duty to conspiracy to defraud MTN of Shs8 billion of mobile money.

However, Justice Lawrence Gidudu, in 2015, dismissed the charges against Mwami having found evidence against him inadequate to warrant the charges levelled against him.

Sendo Cleaners

Justice Gidudu, in the ruling, stated that Mwami was “a sacrificial lamb in a situation where he was taking the flak for not detecting the fraud in time yet as soon as he discovered it, he took positive steps to report to MTN chief executive and police.”

Also, reason Mwami was charged one year after investigations had closed and the case was already in court is suspect, Justice Gidudu added in the ruling that is been attached to the claims suit.

“He was not negligent,” Justice Gidudu said of Mwami, “but diligent. I have found no evidence to support the allegations. The charges were brought in bad faith. He is in my view a potential prosecution witness who should have bolstered the prosecution case.”

‘Absence of reason’

Now three years after the judgment, Mwami, through AF Mpanga and Company Advocates — the same lawyers that defended him during the graft trial — wants MTN and government that prosecuted him to pay a high price.

He claims his prosecution, which was spearheaded by the state with MTN as the complainant, was a clear show of absence of reason and bad faith because they knew it that he didn’t have access rights on the Fundamo system , from which the money was allegedly stolen from.

As senior manager in charge of public access, Mwami says his role was to execute marketing and sales strategy plan for the Public Access Department, roll out Mobile Money initiatives, and to supervise a number of staff, including the Mobile Money finance team led by Patrick Ssentongo — then the financial administrator.

Pursuant to an internal audit, in 2013, court documents indicate that a recommendation was made to MTN’s board that Mobile Money finance team that Mwami was supervising be moved from Public Access Department at MTN service centre in Naguru to the mainstream finance department under the head of treasury at the MTN headquarters on Clement Hill Road.

Mwami eyes second court victory

The consequence of this, Mwami says, was that the Mobile Money finance team was moved and his responsibility for their supervision, which had included tasks such as the reconciliation of the dispute account and reconciliation at MTN shops, ceased.

According to Mwami, trouble started in mid-December 2011 when Ssentongo abruptly informed him that he was leaving MTN for a job with the United Nations in Nairobi.

Mwami regarded Ssentongo’s resignation as sudden. And in view of Ssentongo’s seniority together with his high-level access rights to Mobile Money platform, Mwami instructed Barbara Nalukwago, a business analyst at MTN, to run a review of transactions performed by Ssentongo.

When Nalukwago examined the transaction on the Fundamo account, she discovered a number of significant irregularities and unusual transactions done by Ssentongo in which over Shs1 billion was missing.

In 2013, the suit, which is now before Justice Lydia Mugambe, says that Ssentongo was arrested by Violent Crimes Crack Unit (VCCU) and was tortured over number of days in order to confess to have participated in the theft but also implicate Mwami.

It was result of Ssentongo’s charge and caution statement, which was retrieved under duress, that Mwami was arraigned before the anti-graft court, the suit goes on.

“Mwami was featured in several newspapers and online news outlets for the duration of the trial as having defrauded MTN there by damaging his reputation and causing him suffer stigma associated with the negative press exposure,” the plaint says in trying to show how the failed trial injured Mwami’s reputation.

This isn’t the first time Mwami is suing MTN. In 2015, the Commercial Court ordered MTN to pay Shs2.3 billion in damages to EzeeMoney Limited, a company in which Mwami is the chief executive, for sabotaging its business.

Justice Henry Peter Adonyo on November 6, 2015, also ordered MTN to stop acting in unlawful and anti-competitive manner, which denies other businesses an opportunity to prosper.

Justice Adonyo said MTN ordered the telecom giants to pay Shs800 million to EzeeMoney in general damages for loss of business. It was also ordered to pay a penalty of Shs1.5 billion in punitive damages to deter not only MTN but other companies against uncompetitive business tactics.

MTN is yet to pay the money since it appealed Adonyo’s judgment, and the Court of Appeal is yet to hear the case.

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