KAMPALA, Uganda: Amiable tycoon Patrick Bitature is hugely relieved after a judge in town stopped loan sharks from South Africa from grabbing his business empire in its entirety. Justice Musa Ssekaana is the one who has saved Bitature’s business realm from confiscation.
The judge has been painstakingly dissecting the transaction. And he has at the end of the day, found the same to have been premised on fraud. And so, has declared it illegal and untenable. Ssekaana sits at the civil division of the High Court where, he serves as the boss. He practiced and taught law for years, before he was called to the bench. His judgments are regarded highly within the legal and judicial circles.
Uganda’s top firm of Muwema and Company advocates is the one which have been fighting to save Bitature’s string of properties. They have pulled off the laudable feat at the end of the day. This law firm has done such landmark cases previously. Those lawsuits have helped a great deal to rein in on banks and have saved businesses from being seized over fraudulent loans.
For one example, the law firm is credited for having been the brain behind tycoon Ham Kiggundu’s landmark case. The lawsuit ended with the judge declaring the loan, which Kiggundu took from Diamond Trust Bank, to have been fraudulent. The judge made good remarks and observations which are a must read for the people transacting with the banks.
As Bitature savors the victory, the South African loan sharks are, on the other hand, leaking their wounds. They have been pursuing the attachment of Bitature’s businesses, which plot, they have dismally lost. They lost the plot because it has been, and was as well, a fraudulent one from the word go.
In order to avoid detection, these loans sharks took cover under a vague thing known as Vantage Mezzanine Fund 11. This posture, as they are carrying out business outside South Africa. But first things first. We shall divulge later, how these loan sharks used their Vantage Fund to mislead Bitature into handing over his entire business empire to them!
Bitature is one of Uganda’s most hardworking tycoons. He has scrupulously built his empire from scrap. The empire now comprises of telecoms, energy, real estate, oil, and hotels, among others. Apart from business, Bitature wears many hats. He is the board chairman of many companies. Some of those companies include UMEME and UTAMU University. He is also a Consulate.
Bitature has been at pains of losing the hard-earned business empire above. This, following a loan he reportedly acquired from the South Africans in 2014. The loan sharks using one of Uganda’s renowned dodgy law firms, started off the foul game by tricking Bitature into writing a very dangerous agreement.
Under such agreement, Bitature was convinced to surrender all his businesses for purposes of covering the fraudulent debt. Important to note, is the fact that many of the businesses Bitature used as securities to secure the loan, hadn’t agreed to the deal. They were merely dragged into the deal. And this, thanks to the trickery the loan sharks employed on Bitature, who, it would appear, required the loan as a matter of life and death.
Upon agreeing to hand over the businesses, the loan sharks made Bitature to write and sign transfer forms. This essentially meant, Bitature was kind of selling his properties to the money lenders. Yet he was simply taking a loan from them which he was supposed to pay back. This is how even loan sharks in Uganda operate!
As would be expected, the South Africans would later on instruct their Ugandan lawyers to trot to the Uganda Business Registration Bureau (UBRS) and deceitfully demand that the transfer forms be altered in their favor! So keen on getting their unclean hands on Bitature’s properties they were, that they even hurriedly paid UGX1Bn fees to facilitate alternation of the same. Yet the same people had kept the deal away from the UBRS in the first instance. They did so in order to skip the mandatory legal process of registering in Uganda before doing business here.
Operating as a partnership, they were legally enjoined to register with the UBRS. During this process, the South Africans would have been required to disclose their names and identities. But except in South Africa, they don’t operate like this elsewhere. They operate stealthily, to avoid rendering accountability in the event of committing fraud while doing business outside South Africa. They further engage in this kind of trickery in order to avoid paying relevant taxes to countries where they operate from.
The managers of URBS would prove too smart for the loan sharks to manipulate. They refused to change the ownership of the securities which Bitature had purportedly transferred in their names. The managers said they couldn’t do so because the transfer they were pursuing were a matter of contestation before Justice Boniface Wamala.
Much as Justice Ssekaana faulted URBS for pausing the alteration of the properties in absence of injunction order from court, the judge noted that the fact that the loan sharks had hidden the loan transaction from URBS, there was no way court could revisit the decision URBS took. 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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