Attorney General Mr William Byaruhanga has written to the ministry of Finance stating that departed Asian properties cannot be subjected to a further Parliament inquiry after a court ruling.
The Attorney General, in the letter to minister of Finance Matia Kasaija on August 15 2019, while responding to a letter by the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board which claims Plot 98-104 Nakivubo Road, which belongs to Hajji Abdu Kasai, a businessman, says that Asians’ properties already allocated to different individuals through court processes cannot be reversed. This means the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) should forget about repossessing such properties.
The Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board, in an ongoing parliamentary inquiry investigating suspected fraud syndicate in acquisition of 460 Departed Asians Properties, had listed some properties, including those of individuals such as business tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia, which court had ruled that they were rightfully acquired.
Mr Ruparelia has raised the same concerns to the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga wondering why Parliament was investigating a matter that had already been closed by court.
Now the attorney general has said the powers of the Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board are governed by Section 4 of the Assets of Departed Asians Act Cap 83, which stipulates that the Board shall take over and manage all assets transferred to it by virtue of Section 13 of the Assets of Departed Asians Decree, 1973.
In the same Section 13, the AG says the mandate for the Board is to discharge all the liabilities to it by this Act, collect all debts or other monies due to the departed Asian; and may sell or otherwise deal with such assets in the same way as the departed Asian may do.
However, he explains that the Expropriated Properties Act Cap 87 and the Expropriated Properties (Repossession and Disposal) (No.1) Regulations S.I 87-8 limit the involvement of DAPCB and the Minister of Finance to transfer property already allocated to a person and take it back to the former owner.
“Section 3 of the Expropriated Property Act Cap 87 provides; (J) Subject to this Act; the Minister shall have the power to transfer to the firmer owner of any property or business vested in the Government under this Act that property or business,” the Attorney General’s letter reads in part.
He adds: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as empowering the Minister to Transfer property or business to a former owner unless the Minister is satisfied that the former owner shall physically return to Uganda, repossess and actively manage the property or business. Subsection (2) shall not apply to a former owner who jointly participates with the Government in the ownership and management of any property or business pursuant to section 5.”
The AG say “it is evident that the DAPCB’s involvement is limited to only when the property is still vested in the Government by virtue of Section 2 of the EPA and before the issuance of a repossession certificate by the Minister”.
Quoting from a Supreme Court ruling in the case between Mohan Musisi and Kiwanuka Asha Chard, Justice Mulenga ruled that “The Minister has no power to cancel a Certificate issued under the Act. in providing in section 14 of the Act, that a person aggrieved by a decision made by the Minister under the Act may appeal to the High Court, Parliament did not expressly reserve in tire Minister, any power to review such a decision upon request by an aggrieved person.”
Meera Investments Limited owns Plot 24 on Kampala Road
Early in August Sudhir wrote a letter to Parliament protesting the move to investigate how he acquired a property in the city even when the High Court ruled in 2012 that he genuinely acquired it.
The property in question had been listen by the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board that Plot 24 on Kampala Road, which belongs to Meera Investments Limited, was part of the contested properties.
Sudhir bought Plot 24 on Kampala Road in 1995 and when the Custodian Board contested the move, they went to the High Court and the Judge ruled in their favour. He said the Custodian board at the time did not appeal the court’s decision.
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.