KAMPALA Uganda: The entire Ugandan community gets excited by day due to the near shift of Lockdown as the 42 days trots to the finishing line come July 30th 2021. But this is not the case with a Ugandan businessman of Indian origin, Mr. Hemal Kotecha. He would wish his free numbered days to drag their feet a little longer.
This is because the end of lockdown will automatically see a resumption of the judiciary activities, a thought that send shivers down Kotecha’s spine. Reason? Him, and four others are momentarily free via court bail after they allegedly swindled close to UGX30Bn from Total Uganda, one of the biggest oil and gas facilities in the country.
It all started way back in 2017 when Kotecha and a handful of Total Uganda staff reportedly connived to swindle goods worth UGX28, 767,178,000 (Shillings twenty eight billion, seven hundred, sixty seven million one hundred and seventy eight thousand) from the fuel giant. The products Kotecha bought with air include among others, Petrol, Diesel and lubricants totaling to the said amount.
For starters, Hemal Kotecha is a qualified agent of Total Uganda for several years. He owns the mega Total Petro Station along Wampeewo Avenue opposite Hotel Africana and Total Kabuusu, adjacent to Masaka and Rubaga road in Rubaga Division, Kampala District. Both stations are among the busiest around town with tens of thousands of fuel sold daily, minus the busy shops in there.
But whereas he is the mastermind, guileful Kotecha couldn’t have cracked the shabby deal alone. He therefore hired assistance of the Total Uganda staff, mainly from the Accounts department. The team would then apply their IT expertise to post air in place of money into Total Uganda Ltd computer networks, hence giving credence to the fictitious vice as true payment entries into the Company’s books of accounts.
“Ssebalu Moses, Nansikombi Priscillah, Belinda Nakasi and others still at large between 1st September 2017 and 30th September 2018 at Total Uganda Ltd Head Office, 8th Street Industrial Area in Kampala District, being employed by Total Uganda as Treasury Officer, Senior Accountant, Cashier and Treasury Assistance/Taxation Accountant respectively, stole (UGX28, 767,178,000/=), the property of their said employer,” reads the Charge Sheet entailed in Court documents.
Kotecha is also accused along with a one Tugume Innocent, a Cash Dealer and resident of Mulawa Zone, Kira Division in Wakiso District. The entire team is accused of four counts which include Embezzlement contrary to section 19(b) (i) of the Anti-Corruption Act as amended and Electronic fraud contrary to section 19(1) (2) of the Computer Misuse Act 2001.
The other two are… Receiving stolen property contrary to section 314(1) of Penal Code Act, CAP 120 and Conspiracy to Defraud contrary to section 309 of the Penal Code Act, CAP 120. They “between 1st September 2017 and 30th September 2018 at Total Uganda Head Office, and other various places in the Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso Districts, conspired together to defraud Total Uganda of UGX28,767,178,000,” reaffirms the charge sheet further.
A resident of Tagore Crescent, Nakawa Division in Kampala District, Hemal Kotecha and Tugume Innocent are particularly charged with receiving stolen property. They “received petrol, diesel and lubricants worth (the said amount), the property of Total Uganda Ltd, knowing or having reason to believe the same to have been feloniously stolen,” court documents pin them deeper.
Kotecha and his accomplices are all out on bail. Their freedom automatically prolonged self when the dates on which they were meant to report back to court fell at time when Judiciary had been prematurely haggard into a holiday, thanks to the lockdown caused by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic which hit the country around May this May this year.
Court officials handling the matter intimated that a date for the group to reappear before court will be set immediately after the lift of the lockdown. On his side, Kotecha said him and his co-accused are unfairly handled. “We have been in Court since 2019. It’s so painful that we can’t do anything because we are on bail all this time,” he told the Investigator on Friday.
Efforts to reach out to Total Uganda Spokesman Marvin Kagoro were futile as his phone wasn’t going through. He also never responded to the message over the matter. Meanwhile, we are informed that in order to save his business face, Kotecha stepped aside as the proprietor of Total Wampeewo, for a friend of the same origin. Watch this space…
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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