Judge says lawyer Kasango, co-accused were a ‘liability to society’
CORRUPTION | City lawyer Bob Kasanga will spend one of the most expensive times in prison after he was handed down 16-year sentence for stealing about Shs16 billion in pensioners’ funds.
The decision of Justice Margaret Tibulya, of the Anti-Corruption Court, means that Kasango’s jail term is worth nearly a whopping Shs1 billion annually and while the disgraced lawyer would gladly trade the dirty money for his freedom, the damage is much more far-reaching than just a billion bob — the pun inclusive.
Tibulya said had no kind words for Kasango and his three co-accused, saying former public service officials Jimmy Lwamafa, permanent secretary; Christopher Obey, principal accountant at the pensions department; and Stephen Kiwanuka, director of research and development, were a liability to society.
Kasango reached for the ruling on Friday probably wishing he had Sam Kutesa’s DNA running in his veins as it appeared the only way to avoid heading to the lakeside Luzira Prison given the damning assessment of his three co-accused.
The disgraced lawyer, who will also have to refund Shs500 million from his loot, was convicted on various counts of theft and forgery of two judicial document to steal Shs15.4 billion of pension money and conspiracy to commit a fraud, a felony, and diverting public funds.
The ruling said the money, paid into Kasango’s firm’s account as legal fees, was meant for payment of 6,340 pensioners. The lawyer did not represent the pensioners in a case against the Attorney General, which they had won and a result of which they were to be paid the said amount.
Last week, two court assessors advised that Kasango be set free because he had no case to answer but Judge Tibulya ruled that the city lawyer was aware that the documents he submitted to collect the money were forged.
Tibulya also said the Public Service officials were aware that they were not supposed to pay the money to Kasango since there had not been any money budgeted for settling court costs and damages.
“All the three people have a past record of conviction on charges related to theft of government money and have been living fictitious lives. They were a liability to society,” Justice Tibulya said.
But Kasango had told the court in his defence that he was only handed the contested documents for purposes of collecting the money from government and could not possibly be charged with forging the documents.
Kasango’s troubles started when John Matovu won a legal battle on behalf of pensioners but handed the responsibility of claiming legal costs from government to Kasango. Matovu told the court that he couldn’t go on his own because he had previously represented Opposition leader Kizza Besigye so he feared the government would not pay him.
While the lawyer could explain himself on the financial documents, the trouble with the court documents he used to collect the money proved decisive as John Eudes Kaitirima, who was a registrar at the Civil Division of the High Court (he is now a judge of the High Court), denied ever signing the court orders.
As Kasango starts his long journey behind bars, the other three co-accused were also handed separate sentences. Lwamafa will serve seven years in prison for diverting public funds and two years for conspiracy to defraud.
But being concurrent term, he will be out of Luzira before Kasango has done half of his time.
The judge also sentenced Obey to 14 years and Kiwanuka to nine. But the three former public service officials must refund the Shs3.5 billion they looted.