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Top city lawyer suspended for pocketing client’s money

Before the Law Council, Godfrey Nangumya confessed to recovering a client's Shs63 million but keeping it all to himself without informing the client

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CORRUPTION – A top city lawyer who recovered a client’s money and diverted it to personal gain will have to spend two years without practicing, the legal profession regulator has ruled.

Godfrey Nangumya, a senior partner at Nangumya and Company Advocates, was suspended by Uganda Law Council after admitting to recovering his client’s money from another party but keeping it to himself.

The council decision follows a petition by city businessman Emmy Tumwine, who accused Nangumya of diverting all the money he had been instructed to recover into personal use.

In his petition, Tumwine told the council that Nangumya picked Shs63 million with interest from Muwema & Company Advocates, a law firm which was representing an opponent in a dispute.

Tumwine told the committee that in 2013, he instructed Nangumya, who was his lawyer, to recover for him the money.

“Nangumya never revealed to me that he had entered into a settlement agreement with his debtor,” the businessman told the council.

Feeling that Nangumya was not fulfilling his side of the bargain, Tumwine instructed lawyers of M/S Muhumuza –Kizza and Company Advocates to recover his money.

But Muwema and Company Adocates had already cleared with Nangumya and the new lawyers were informed of this.

Appearing before the Uganda Law Counciil, Nangumya admitted that he had picked the money but that he was only holding on to it because his client owed him money from past legal settlements.

“The senior counsel was found guilty of unprofessional contact and impunity by retaining client’s money, preventing client to access his own money for over three years and putting it to personal use after failing to produce it for custody,” the council said.

“This committee (has) observed that the habit of advocates putting client’s monies to their own use is on the rise, which gives a bad name to the profession.”

Not the first time

The law council said it had found that Nangumya had acted unprofessionally by retaining client’s money  and could not produce it when directed to deposit it with law council for custody.

“For his unprofessional act, Nangumya is not even apologetic and this is a typical case of impunity that should be punished with the seriousness it deserves to deter others from engaging in such conduct,” the council said..

Nangumya has been on suspension during the review process.

‘’He is suspended from practicing for two years –less the time he has so far served for during the interlocutory suspension earlier imposed pending the hearing of this matter. We hope the errant advocate shall use this time for self-reflection and assessment with a view to reform on his conduct as an advocate,” the judgment reads in part.

A five-member committee of the Law Council chaired by Bruce Yerere, and others who included: Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso, Miriam Namutebi, Simon Kinobe (president Uganda Law Society), and Frank Nigel Othembi ordered counsel Nangumya to also pay Sh1 million as costs incurred by the complainant in pursuing his complaint

He was also ordered to pay Sh1.5 million as costs to Law Council. Members also directed the secretary to Law council to take note of the disciplinary action taken against Nangumya and sanctions imposed upon him for his errant actions in the matter.

“During the next five years, should the same advocate be brought back to this committee for this kind of or any other disciplinary action, his name shall be struck off the Roll for good,” the judgment further reads.

This is not the first time Nangumya is facing the wrath of the legal professional regulator. In 2009, Counsel Nangumya was suspended by the Law Council for gross professional misconduct for six months.

At that time, Nangumya was found guilty of illegally repossessing a bus that had been impounded by court. An angry Nangumya would later ,attack a complainant, Allen Janyare and was found guilty and ordered to pay her Shs10 million in costs.

As an advocate, Nangumya has represented and saved several city businessmen from going to prison such as Panamera bar proprietor Desh Kananura and his brother who were charged with murder for the killing of Muhammad Katerega, Hassan Basajjabalaba and his brother Nasser Basajjabalaba, Charles Muhangi and tycoon Drake Lubega when they were battling for the city bus park.

Nangumya on Sunday said he was not satisfied with the Law Council’s judgment. He said he will seek judicial review. over the matter.

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