A city law firm has come under the spotlight on allegations of fraud and forgery in the Shs2.3 billion land compensation scam where money was paid to a ‘ghost’ claimant.
Lawyers Kyle Lubega and Richard Buzibira of Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates are said to have represented one Natalia Namuli, a 79-year-old woman in Kagadi District, to claim for land compensation from the Uganda Land Commission (ULC).
The money that was deposited to the law firm to pay Namuli is part of the controversial Shs10.6 billion Supplementary Budget that the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development requested for the Financial Year 2020/2021 to pay land claimants in Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions.
The compensation scheme that is laced with fraud and irregularities is being probed by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).
In their earlier submissions, the lawyers affirmed to the committee that they were approached by Namuli for their legal service to process her payment from ULC. The lawyers were armed with documents such as Letters of Administration and Certificate of Titles that legalised Namuli as the legitimate administrator of the estate belonging to the late Atwana Kalette.
However, it has turned out that the purported letters of administration were fraudulently forged and that Namuli is neither an administrator of the said estate nor a beneficiary of the compensation and that she was in a syndicated scheme, coerced to sign documents that she could hardly comprehend considering her illiteracy levels.
This was revealed by Bani Twesigye, a detective Assistant Inspector of Police attached to COSASE, during the Thursday, 23 June 2022 meeting.
AIP Twesigye was on 21 June 2022 sent by the Committee to investigate the whereabouts of the said beneficiary (Namuli) and to establish and verify her legitimacy as an administrator of the late Kalette’s estate.
“I met Namuli and interviewed her, but she categorically denied being an administrator of the estate of the late Kalette. She further confirmed that she is not related to the family of the late Kalette and also declined knowledge about it,” Twesigye said.
Asked whether she has ever processed any letters of administration for the purported estate or received any compensation from ULC, Namuli told Twesigye that she has never received any compensation money, but recalled how in late 2020, her son-in-law a one Peter Amara, also former Kibaale LCV Chairperson, transported her to Kampala and made her sign several documents with no explanation.
“Natalia Namuli stated that she has never got any money from Uganda Land Commission neither does she know that her in-law Peter Amara received any money on her behalf. Apparently, it is Amara who approached ULC purporting to help in compensation of land of his mother-in-law,” added Twesigye.
When COSASE chairperson Ssenyonyi sought to know from the Police detective if Namuli knew about Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates based at the Social Security House on Jinja Road, he said: “Natalia Namuli does not know about Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates, but in our interaction, when she was brought to Kampala by Amara, she was taken to a certain storied house where she was made to sign several documents until late.”
According to the Police detective, the purported letters of administration were forged to legitimise the payment.
Apparently, the letters of administration were signed by Justice Ralph Ochan in 2015 yet he had resigned as Masindi Resident Judge in 2013 to take up his new position as Chairperson of the Public Service Commission.
“It is clear that Uganda Land Commission paid fraudsters who duped the old woman Natalia Namuli to sign on their documents without any knowledge of what their intentions were. This seems to have been a syndicate orchestrated by Peter Amara together with some ULC officials and lawyers on whose account these compensation monies passed,” Detective Twesigye said.
Ssenyonyi said that his interaction with Ochan indeed confirmed that the purported letters of administration were forged.
Whereas Lubega, who is also a signatory to the law firm’s bank account, confirmed that indeed ULC paid all the monies meant for Namuli to their account, he could not explain or adduce evidence that the old woman was actually paid over Shs2 billion, saying it was his partner, Buzibira who was in touch with the client.
“When the money entered the account, my colleague who has been handling the file asked me to sign [the cheque] in order to pay the client. I signed and he went ahead and withdrew the money and I believe he paid the client,” Lubega said.
Lubega’s unsatisfactory response prompted Ssenyonyi to hand him over to CID detectives for further interrogation. Ssenyonyi also ordered that Buzibira who has twice snubbed the committee summons, presents himself to Police on Friday, 24 June 2022 before a warrant of arrest is issued against him.
Additional Reporting: Parliament