In the mid 1990’s, the National Resistance Movement regime put Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) on the auction block. Some highly connected deal cutters in government put in a bid, masked as one of some Malaysian company known as Westmont.
The power-that-be sanctioned the bid by Westmont. After all, their pushers had the blessing of some big people very close to what former Spy Chief, Charles Rwomushana, loves to describe as the `Deep State`.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the team seeking to disguisedly buy what was known as the people’s bank, failed to beat the price. They instead went about looking for buyers from abroad. But no one among the clean investors, was willing to taint themselves with the messy deal.
Oh! The big guys who had masked the purchase got frightened, aware that the bogus deal was going to expose them as crooks! They went vending UCB to local investors. Such fraudsters’ search led them to the door of former Central Bank Governor, Dr Suleiman Kiggundu.
The now panicky commission-seekers begged and begged Kiggundu to help them buy UCB because it was threatening to tarnish them. Kiggundu had left the Central Bank a clean man. He was now running his then flourishing Greenland Bank.
The major company was encompassing other companies, including Kampala University, and FIBA, a coffee processing and export company. The others were Greenland Insurance, and Greenland Forex Bureau, among high flying business entities.
After convincing him that they would cover him in case the deal went bad, Kiggundu quickly looked for money and bought UCB. He, as a token, handed some of the people who took the deal to him, shares in Greenland Bank and UCB. It would further emerge how Kiggundu had oiled the palms of the same powerful with USD1m.
Kiggundu worked on turning around his new acquisition.
As he went about turning around UCB, the powerful people he had helped to escape shame of presenting Westmont, were busier intriguing on how to grab the bank from him!
After some years, word went around indicating how some powerful guy without close connections to the Deep State, had purchased UCB with Kiggundu. Parliament quickly took up the matter.
Before the probe committee could complete its work, the powerful in question stepped out and conceded having manipulated the auction. The President forgave him and instead, accused Kiggundu of purchasing the bank under cover!
Before we knew it, Kiggundu had lost a hell of money he had invested in UCB! One by one, all the investments Kiggundu had painstakingly fought to put up, came down crumbling like a house of cards.
That wasn`t all, Kiggundu was arrested and locked up in Luzira. He was dragged to court and charged and, as he warmed up to use the trial to expose the mafias, the DPP finally brought the trial to a dramatic halt.
The powerful man who had been forgiven by the President had turned up at Buganda Road Court to testify against Kiggundu. Sensing that Kiggundu was about to spill the beans, the magistrate, Catherine Bamugemereire was asked to stand over the case.
In the meantime, the powers-that-be, were talking to the DPP to end the trial. Bamugemereire would later return to court only to be informed how the DPP had brought the curtain down on the whole legal circus. Bamugemereire has since enjoyed a supersonic speed elevation, culminating into chairing several commissions of inquiries.
Now the way we look at the coffee deal purportedly handed to Enrica Pinetti, it seems to indicate that hers` is a masked deal put forward by powerful people, most possibly the one who put forward the Westmont bid. But as it has been with Ugandan shoddy deals, time will tell.
- 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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