Government of Uganda has finalized plans to recover up to 100 Departed Asian properties formerly reclaimed by the Asians despite having received compensation from the government.
This development comes after the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) of the 10th Parliament directed the government to recover the properties and prosecute those who aided their fraudulent transfer.
According to Sunday Monitor, the Ministry of Finance’s notices on the reclaiming 100 assets and cancelling 600 titles of the Departed Asians properties have since sparked off a standoff between the Finance ministry, the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) on the one hand, and the Solicitor General and Attorney General on the other, with the latter saying DAPCB and the Finance ministry have no powers to cancel certificates of repossession they had previously issued.
Minister Matia Kasaija insists: “The law is taking its course. That is what I can say for now. I cannot reveal more than that.”
Mr Kasaija’s declaration comes three months after a Cosase sub-committee of the 10th Parliament released a report on its two-year investigation into DAPCB operations.
DAPCB was formed to manage properties of Asian and British protected persons expelled from Uganda in August 1972 by president Idi Amin.
Amin gave the Asians 90 days to quit Uganda after he declared what he called an economic war. He accused the Asians of “milking a cow without feeding it” and famously declared that he was “giving Uganda back to ethnic Ugandans”.
The Cosase sub-committee was instituted to investigate, among other things, allegations that some of the properties for which government had compensated their former owners were repossessed by those who had been compensated.
The 83-page report, which was released late April, reveals that government had as of December 31, 2005, paid out compensation amounting to Shs1.7b to some 119 former owners. But the report also says some of the properties are now in the hands of some wealthy businesspeople in town.
“The committee noted that some properties formerly compensated by government had ended up in the hands of unscrupulous individuals, who had later transferred the same to bona fide purchasers for value without notice,” the report states in part.
The committee recommended that government moves to recover such properties and prosecute those who aided their fraudulent transfer.
“Those who are found to have fraudulently reclaimed properties for which they had already been compensated should lose the property, but should be prosecuted subject to direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the matter,” the report recommends.
The report notes that in 1976, government paid out Shs13.4 million to the government of India as compensation for assets that had been left behind by Indian citizens.
The same report indicates that another batch of former property owners, mostly people of undetermined nationality, were reportedly paid out at least Shs40.4 million through the global refugee agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), following a meeting on July 21, 1977, between government and UNHCR officials.
The meeting agreed on valuation for buildings that were five years old or less at the time of the expulsion would be valued and compensation paid out at the 1972 market value.
The report indicates that despite the payouts, at least 100 properties had been reclaimed by their former owners or their agents. It recommended the cancellation of repossession certificates of such buildings, prosecution of those who had taken possession of them and the reversion of such properties into the hands of government.
“Persons found to have fraudulently reclaimed properties for which they had already been compensated should not only lose the property but also be prosecuted for misrepresentation, obtaining property by false pretence and fraudulent acquisition of property. The DAPCB should initiate processes for cancellation of repossession certificates acquired and any substitute titles issued…” the report recommends.
DAPCB, minister cagey
It is not clear whether it was in line with this recommendation that the process to recover the properties has been initiated as it was not possible to talk to the DAPCB executive secretary, Mr George William Bizibu. He neither picked up our calls nor responded to our text messages by press time.
Finance minister Matia Kasaija was also cagey. “I have read the Cosase report from page three, and I know the contents very well, but I cannot tell you more than what I have already said. The law is taking its course,” Mr. Kasaija said in an interview with Sunday Monitor’s Isaac Mafumba.
Sunday Monitor however reported from it’s sources close to the minister that the decision to swing into action followed a decision by the ministry to adopt the recommendations of the report after it was adopted by the 10th Parliament.
The processes, our sources in the Finance ministry say, has been ongoing and involves evaluating the circumstances under which each of the properties were repossessed. The sources also said some of those who repossessed the properties have been notified of the move to repossess them by DAPCB and the Finance ministry.
Solicitor General, Finance face off
But the notices have since sparked off a standoff between the Finance ministry and DAPCB on the one hand, and the Solicitor General on the other. The trigger was a February 21 notice that DAPCB sent to the LC1 chairperson of Martin Road in Kampala, directing the occupants of Plot 14C, Martin Road, to vacate the premises in order to enable the ministry to deal in the property.
In reaction, the Solicitor General, in a June 15 letter, wrote to the minister, saying DAPCB and the ministry have no power to cancel a certificate of repossession.
“The Attorney General has advised as follows: That he has previously advised on such matters vide his letter to the minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, ref. ADM31/197/01, dated August 15. That as per the said letter of August 2019, the minister responsible for Finance (or Departed Asians Property Custodian Board) “(“The Board”) has no powers to cancel a certificate of repossession previously issued by him or her… That powers is reserved for the High Court of Uganda under Section 15 of the Expropriated Properties…” the Solicitor General’s letter read in part.
The Solicitor General added: “That the purported claim of ownership or authority over the property by the board, as has been the case with respect to other long-possessed properties in the recent past, is downright illegal…”
However, city lawyer Dan Wandera Ogalo does not agree with the Solicitor General’s take.
“Now if the minister accepted the recommendations of the [Cosase] committee and it is agreed that all those people who did not come back within 120 days to reside here as required under the provisions of the Expropriated Properties Act (EPA), then the minister can directly revoke the certificates that he issued. That can be done by the minister. That does not have to go to court,” Mr Ogalo says.
Sunday Monitor has also established that the ongoing process at the ministry will also entail recovering of all properties that were repossessed in a manner that contravenes the law and also implementing other recommendations of the sub-committee.
The Cosase report says whereas the Expropriated Properties Act (EPA), which transferred the properties and businesses that had been taken over by the Amin government to either return them to their former owners or sell them off, provided that a claimant was physically present before a property could be returned to its former owner. At least 637 properties were repossessed without fulfilling that requirement.
The report indicated that 285 of the 637 properties were repossessed by Ms Unia Ssebaggala, 119 by Mr Mohamed Allibhai and 53 by Ms Mumtaz Kassam. The report says the others were repossessed by Minex Karia, who took 46 properties, Praful Patel, who took 50 properties, Praful Chandra, who repossessed 18 properties, and N. K Radia, who repossessed 66 of such properties.
“All repossessions whose former owners didn’t physically return to manage the properties as required by law should be cancelled or revoked for being null and void… The minister should invoke his/her powers under Section 9(1) of the EPA to make an order to either retain such properties as government or the same be disposed of in a manner prescribed by Regulation 11 of the Expropriated Properties (Repossession and Disposal)..” the committee recommends.
The committee further recommends the revocation of all transfers of ownership that were effected on the basis of letters of repossession and the prosecution of landlords who acquired properties on the basis of repossession certificates that were fraudulently acquired, and such properties revert to government.
The committee also reported that 725 properties were repossessed by Mr Mohamed Alibhai without him presenting supporting documents such as powers of attorney, certificates of repossession or letters of repossession.
Fake powers of attorney
The report pointed out that whereas some of the properties were repossessed on the strength of powers of attorney issued by property owners outside the country, some of those who used powers of attorney to take charge of the properties had transferred the same properties into their names without following the due process.
“The committee found that a number of agents who repossessed on behalf of their principals transferred these properties without a required registrable instrument, which, by law, is the certificate of repossession that confers powers to transfer to former owners,” the report states.
In some instances, the report says, repossession letters were used and in others special certificates to transfer ownership of properties. The committee recommended the revocation of such transfers.
List of Properties to be seized by Government
- Plot 66 William St 1/2 share Kampala
- Plot 10 Solomon Rise Bugolobi Kampala
- Plot Mugurusi Rd, Fort Portal
- Plot 16A Rashid St Fort Portal
- Plot 70 Gweri Rd Soroti (1/2 Share) Soroti
- Plot 18 Mugurusi Rd, Fortportal Fort Portal
- Plot 6 Princess Drive Bugolobi Kla (1/2 share) Kampala
- Plot 7 Kanjokya St Kololo, Kampala
- Plot 3 Kla id (1/2 Share) Kampala
- Plot 3 Kampala Road Kampala
- Plot 45 Lake Drive Nakawa Port Bell Kampala
- Floor Mill Store & Jaggery Factory Kamuli
- Plot 17 Kisingiri Mengo Kampala
- Plot 14/A 3rd St Kampala
- Plot 9 Mbuya Rd Bugolobi Kampala
- Plot 16 B OId K’la Rd 9(1/2 share) Kampala
- Plot 7 Solomon Rise Bugolobi Kampala
- Plot 11 Kololo Hill Drive Kampala
- Plot 7 Wilson Road Jagger Factory Kampala
- Masindi Post Masindi
- Plot 28 Mackenzie Val Kampala
- Plot 3 School Drive Mbale
- Plot 34 Madhvani Road Jinja
- Plot 20A Bahiha Road Fort Portal
- Plot 523 Muyenga Tank Hill Kampala
- Plot 29 Costantono Robo Mbarara
- Plot 25 Nasser Road (1/2 share) Kampala
- Plot 8 Nabikva Lane Mbale
- Plot 18 Mugurusi Road Fort Portal
- Plot 80 Buwalasi View Mbale
- Plot 5 Kutch Road East Jinja (1/3share Jinja
- Plot 13 Lwakako Lane Mbale
- Plot 70-7 Nakivubo Road (1/3share) Kampala
- Plot 29 Mai gliei tia Road Kasese
- Plot 9 Perymari Gardens Kampala Kampala
- Plot 7 Princess Anne Drive Kampala Kampala
- Plot 15/17 Kumi Road (1/2 Share) Mbale
- Plot 50 High Street Mbarara
- Plot 16B Old Kampala Road Kampala
- Plot 23 Maragarita Road Fort Portal
- Plot 59,61,63,Nkokonjelu (1/3 Shate) Mbale
- Plot 26 Tufnel Drive Kampala
- Plot 11 Lwakaka Lane (50%) Mbale
- Plot 74 Kira Road Kampala Kampala
- Plot 1 Soroti Avenue Soroti
- Plot 2 Manafwa Road Mbale
- Plot 10 Cementry Road Soroti
- Plot 38-44 School Road, Arua
- Plot 27/29 Kumi Road, Mbale
- Plot 10 Nakasero Road (1/2 Share) Kampala
- Plot 18 Lower Kololo Terrace Kampala
- Plot 56 Kiboga Road Fort Portal
- Plot 2 Manafwa Road (/3 Share) Mbale
- Plot 2 Manafwa Road (1/3 Share) Mbale
- Plot 19 Nakasero Road (1/4 Share) Kampala
- Plot 459-461 Tankhill (1/2 Share) Kampala
- Plot 88 Nile Avenue, Jinja
- Plot 40 Madhvani Road, Jinja
- Plot 38 Madhvani Road, Jinja
- Plot 12/14 Mill Lane, Fort Portal
- Plot 32-34 High Street, Mbarara
- Plot 14 Nkokonjeru Court, Mbale
- Plot 6 Entebbe Road, Kampala
- Plot 32-34 High Street, Mbarara
- Plot 4 Bandali Rise Bugolobi, Kampala
- Plot 68/70 Kira Road Kampala
- Plot 3 Ruhara Road Mbarara
- Plot 5 Ruhara Road Mbarara
- Plot 7 86 1 Ruhara Road Mbarara
- Plot 11 Andrea Olal Road Gulu
- Plot 9 School Road Mbale
- Plot 11 Lobobo Lane Mbale
- Plot 17 Mbaguta Street Mbarara
- Plot 54-56 Mbaguta Street Mbarara
- Plot 15, 16, 17, 1st Street Kampala
- Plot 13 Malana Lane Mbale
- Plot 21 School Road (1/2 Share) Tororo
- Plot 20 Bazara Road Tororo
- Plot 48 Mackinon Road (1/2 Share) Kampala
- Plot 66 William Street Kampala
- Plot 6 Entebbe Road Kampala
- Plot 3 Kampala Road Kampala
- Plot 3 Kampala Road Kampala
- Plot 3 Kampala Road (1/2 Share) Kampala
- Plot 9 Mbuya Road Bugolobi Kampala
- Plot 1 Dewinton Road Kampala
- Plot 9 Dewinton Road Kampala
- Plot 32 Gweri Soroti
- Plot 1 Dewmton Road Kisenyi, Kampala
- Plot 32 Gweri, Soroti