Kabafunzaki did not receive bribe in hotel, admits prosecution witness
CORRUPTION | There is no record of interdicted junior labour minister Herbert Kabafunzaki receiving a bribe while at Kampala Serena Hotel, a prosecution witness has admitted, citing CCTV camera recordings.
Kabafunzaki was in April last year arrested in a sting operation held on camera while supposedly soliciting a Shs5 million bribe from Aya Group chairman Hamid Mohammed, popularly known as Aya.
But Samuel Iranya, the security manager at Serena hotel, under intense cross-examination by MacDosman Kabege, said that the video footage that has continuously been played in court doesn’t show the Rukiga County MP directly receiving the money from Aya.
Kabega, who is representing Kabafunzaki, asked Iranya if at all the CCTV video recordings retrieved from Serena hotel security room showed Kabafunzaki receiving “anything”.
“It doesn’t show him receiving anything or any money,” admitted Iranya, who was testifying for the second time before Justice Margret Tibulya’s court.
Kabega wasn’t done. He asked if at the search certificate showed that Kabafunzaki was found with money and Iranya, who goes by the title ‘protective services manager,’ responded curtly; “no.”
‘CCTV footage doctored’
Kabafunzaki is accused of receiving a shs5m bribe from Aya at the hotel in exchange of clearing his name in the media over allegations of sexually harassing one of his female workers.
It’s said that the suspended minister’s aide, Brian Mugabo, who is also part of the charge sheet, received the bribe.
There after Kabega pursued another line of questioning. This time putting it to Iranya that the video footage tendered in court was doctored since there are certain events that happened on that day that are omitted.
To this effect, Kabega pointed out the video doesn’t show the Kabafunzaki coming from the dining table where he was having lunch with his daughter.
The lawyer further tried to discredit the video footage, saying that it’s doctored because it even doesn’t show when the suspects were held up in Iranya’s office.
Though Kabega insisted that the video selectively leaves out a lot of things, Iranya wasn’t moved. He insisted that it was authentic.
According to prosecution, Mugabo came to be entangled in the bribery saga April 8, Mugabo started the day running errands for Kabafunzaki on Gayaza road and later Makindye divsion.
After that, the two linked up at Serena hotel where they met with Aya, who first gave them Shs5 million.
Apparently, according to Kawuma, on receiving the money, Kabafunzaki handed it to Mugabo, who pocketed it. That later, Mugabo went to the washrooms but, upon returning, he found security operatives in plain clothes.
Sensing trouble, Mugabo took off and hid the money behind a curtain within Serena hotel. Upon returning, security operatives asked him to hand over the money he had received from Aya through Kabafunzaki.
Prosecution says that at first, Mugabo denied receiving the money. But when security operatives searched the hotel, they found the money and arrested the duo.
In his evidence, Iranya recounted how he came to know about this incident in 2017. He said he was approached by one Joshua the Officer-in-charge of Criminal Investigation Directorate at CPS about the commotion that police had caused at the hotel, he told him they had been trailing the minister who was receiving bribes from investors.
Iranya explained that the money had been earlier photocopied by police. Upon recovering it, the police officers started marching the serial numbers with the specimen copies.
Kabafunzaki is jointly charged with Mugabo, his political assistant, and Bruce Lubowa, an interior designer from Wakiso District.
However, Lubowa has since gone missing and the court has decided to proceed without him.