Early this month, Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chairperson, Mubarak Munyagwa formed a subcommittee to investigate the alleged fraudulent acquisition of departed Asians’ property.
In 1983, the Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) was put in charge of between 9,000 to 10,000 properties of Asians who were evicted from Uganda during President Idi Amin’s era.
However, by 2009, 1,676 properties had been sold, some repossessed, compensated while some 3,226 remain unsold and unclaimed.
In his July 4, 2019 letter, DAPCB Executive Secretary George William Bizibu told the Cosase Chairperson that some individuals such as Mamtaz Kassam, Mohammad Alibhai,Ranjan Taylor, Balbindar Singh, Abdul Ghain/Abdul Majid, Indar Singh, Gandesha, Rafiki Mohammed and Sudhir Ruparelia (Crane Management) acquired some properties of departed Asians illegally.
Notably, Bizibu pointed out Sudhir’s Plot 24 Kampala Road which currently holds Kampala Boulevard.
He said they do not have records of Crane Management Services engaging in the process of repossession of the property.
“However, as a big property management firm , Crane Management Service purchased properties from individuals whose repossession audit and verification of the Board considers fraudulent,” Bizibu told Munyagwa.
“It should be noted that the individuals and companies as described above represented themselves as agents holding powers of Attorney from former registered proprietors of Asian properties. Using the said powers of Attorney , they submitted applications for repossession of so many properties with ease and indeed exploited the system then at DAPCB as the board had no capacity then to duly verify the documents submitted due to logistical issues, available technology , and negligence and in so many instances concealed fraud.”
However, the Court judgment shows otherwise.
On December 20, 2012, Justice Joseph Murangira at the High Court at Kampala Land Division declared Sudhir under his Meera Investment Limited as the rightful owner of the land.
Prior, DAPCB had taken a decision that Sudhir was not the the owner of Plot 24 Kampala Road thus stopping him from developing the land in question.
The decision forced Sudhir through his by then lawyers Nangwala, Rezida & Co. Advocates to run to Court asking it to quash the decisions that had been taken by DAPCB.
In his ruling, Justice Murangira said Sudhir/Meera Investment was in possession of the property since 1994 when he purchased it until it was subjected to the repossession process of properties that were expropriated when Asians were expelled from Uganda in 1972.
“Meera Investment approached the former owners (Rameshchandra Bhowan Kataria and the late Kershavlal Premchard Shah) before they were granted a certificate of repossession and they agreed to sell their estate and interest that is the property. Indeed they sold and transferred to Meera,” the Judge said.
He further said DAPCB expressly recognized Meera Investment’s intention to purchase the property from the former owners before repossession.
“This is reflected in the respondent’s letter dated January 5, 1995 (repossession certificate is dated March 31, 1995) signed by Mr Sam S. Male who has now made a u-turn in the respondent’s affidavit in reply.”
“The above stated facts were not challenged by the respondents in his affidavit in reply to the application. The facts therefore are taken to have been admitted by the respondents.”
In conclusion, Justice Murangira ruled that the decision by DAPCB to the effect that Meera Investment was not the owner of the land comprised in Freehold Register volume 1082 Folio 1 plot 24 Kampala Road was made and created ‘without jurisdiction, irregularly: Unlawfully, illegally and therefore it is declared a nullity’.
“The applicant[Meera Investment] is the lawful owner of the land comprised in Freehold Register volume 1082 Folio 1 Plot 24 Kampala Road.
‘The respondents shall pay the costs of this application to the applicant.”