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Justine Bagyenda’s Lawyer, Robert Kirunda refuses to comment on own possible role in dubious underselling of defunct banks

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An Auditor General’s report to a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Commissions, State Authorities and State Enterprises (PAC – COSASE) investigating the closure of the defunct banks found that JN Kirkland, through a number of companies, many of which are suspected of being façades and fronts for Bank of Uganda officials, sold financial assets worth UGX135bn for a mere UGX8.9bn- a 93% discount! According to the Auditor General’s report, the assets included UGX34bn of loans that had valid, legal and equitable mortgage supported by proper legal documentation.
According to the AG, the UGX8.9bn sale price, represented 26% of the total secured loan portfolio and 7% of the total loan portfolio!


All this happened between 2005 and 2011 while Kirunda, was a Senior Legal Associate at JN Kirkland.
So when this reporter, asked Robert Kirunda on Twitter, to clarify on whether he had a role to play in this shadowy deal- Kirunda played dumb, now for 5 days, despite the fact that he has been active on twitter.


Kirunda who is known to have very strong views on government corruption also declined to respond to this reporters inquiries sent to his official email address, as well as his known Whatsapp and Twitter messaging inboxes. This reporter, asked Kirunda, who during the parliamentary probe, represented Justine Bagyenda, if, assuming he had any role to play in the deal, he had ever interacted with Bagyenda and Benedict Sekabira- the BoU Officials various named by a parliamentary probe on the matter for the mismanaging the particular assets sale.


He also declined to respond to this, regardless of a reminder.
Details: How JN Kirkland is believed to have conspired with BoU officials to profit from defunct banks’ asset sale.


According to investigations by this magazine and according to details available from the that in or around 2006, Bank of Uganda officials- mainly Justine Bagyenda and Benedict Sekabira hired JN Kirkland to advise them on how to dispose of assets of the defunct International Credit Bank (ICB), Greenland Bank and Cooperative Bank. It is not clear how BoU arrived at JN Kirkland, a firm founded in 2005, but accordingly, it is JN Kirkland, acting as an exit strategy external consultant for the central bank that identified a US company, Octavian Advisors, a US hedge fund, said to be specializing in distressed investments; itself founded in 2005, who agreed to buy the bad loan book.
Octavian Advisors would incorporate a company known as M/S Nile River Acquisition Company (NRAC)- in Mauritius on the 26th September 2007- just two months before they acquired the assets, on 24th November 2007 from Bank of Uganda.
The assets amounting to UGX135 billion at $5.25m- UGX8.9bn at the time (USD1= UGX1,710 in November 2007).


According to the Auditor General’s report, this transaction, occasioned the shareholders of the defunct banks, up to UGX126 billion in losses. Although Bagyenda tried to justify the sale price saying that many of the assets were bad, the Auditor General said that the UGX135bn, included UGX34 bn of loans that had valid, legal and equitable mortgage supported by proper legal documentation and concluded that the UGX8.9bn sale price, represented 26% of the total secured loan portfolio and 7% of the total loan portfolio.


But perhaps, the sale price is not the biggest problem- the problem lies in the details of how the transaction was layered- ultimately ending back at the doorsteps of JN Kirkland as a beneficiary from the very same transaction they were hired to advise on, for the owners of the law firm and companies linked to them would later be found in possession of land titles, previously used as collateral on some of the bad loans.


First of all, the details of how BoU reached at NRAC as a final buyer are shadowy and so was the valuation of the assets before sale. Bagyenda the sacked former Executive Director of Bank Supervision under whose regime most of the dirty selling happened, would later tell parliament that the price was reached at after what she called “desk estimation”!
In what appears to be a carefully constructed scheme, immediately after acquiring the assets at a give-away price, on 31st of December 2007, NRAC executed a power of attorney to M/S SIL Investments – a company only registered in Uganda just a month before, on 16th November 2007, to collect debts on its behalf!


More suspiciously, the registered physical address for SIL Investments was Greenland Towers, the then registered offices for JN Kirkland & Associates.
During an earlier investigation into the matter, by this reporter, one of the lawyers who represented SIL Investments on several of the loan recovery cases, intimated to this reporter that all legal instructions from SIL originated from JN Kirkland & Associates’ founding partner, a one Kakembo Katende.
At the time, Kakembo, the Robert Kirunda’s boss, did not pick up our calls and declined to respond to Whatsapp inquiries on the matter, despite having read them.


Interestingly, Octavian Advisors closed in 2012, over what it said was a difficult operating environment. Nonetheless SIL investments continued recovering the bad loans.
Octavian deal murky, SIL-NRAC deal fraudulent


The parliamentary probe into o the closure of defunct banks concluded that “the transaction between Bank of Uganda and Miss Octavian Advisors Plc. and her agents lacked transparency and officers involved should be held responsible for commissions and/or omissions which resulted in not marshalling the greatest amount of the assets of the distressed financial institutions.”
The committee further recommended that “the officers involved should be held responsible for conflict of interest,” and more importantly, the “fraudulent business activities being conducted by M/s SIL Investment on behalf of a non-existent Nile River Acquisition Company (NRAC) should immediately cease.”
“The Inspector General of Police is required immediately, on adoption of this report, to seize all the land titles in possession of Mr. Kakembo Katende of JN Kirkland and Associates and M/s SIL Investment arising from their management of the loan portfolio sold to Nile River Acquisition Company by Bank of Uganda,” ordered the committee.
“M/s SIL Investments and Mr Kakembo Katende should render an account to the public trustee of all monies received from the time Nile River Acquisition Company ceased” and that “the agency of M/s SIL Investments Limited cannot legally exist upon dissolution of the principal – that is Nile River Acquisition Company,” further concluded the committee.


Was Kirunda an innocent employee or is he playing Omerta-code silence?


Robert Kirunda has since left JN Kirkland and is a co-founding Partner at Kirunda & Wasige Advocates of the firm through whom he represents Bagyenda.
Robert Kirunda has since left JN Kirkland and is a co-founding Partner at Kirunda & Wasige Advocates of the firm through whom he represents Bagyenda. It is also likely that, he possibly did not know much about this deal and his representation of Bagyenda was merely coincidental, but he won’t say nothing, preferring to keep an Omerta-code silence.
Even when we asked him whether he found a moral dilemma and or conflict of interest in representing Bagyenda over a matter in which he, was likely party to by virtue of his former employment, he did not respond.
Neither did he respond to our question in regard to the fact that following the parliamentary probe and the Auditor General’s report that revealed that the assets of the three banks had been grossly undervalued to the detriment of the shareholders, if he had any regret, he did not respond as well.
Nearly a year has gone by since parliament promised to take action on parliament’s report and nothing has happened, in which case we are likely to never know the full truth and major questions will still linger.


For example, did JN Kirkland actually buy the bad assets for themselves through Sil Investments, but used Octavian Advisors and NRAC Company as mere smokescreens? If so, was JN Kirkland working on its own or was it representing some powers that be in Bank of Uganda. If yes, who are these people? Did the officials at BoU, then deliberately under-price the bad assets of the failed banks so as to privately benefit once the recovery had been done?


Robert Kirunda, as a former Senior Legal Associate at JN Kirkland surely has some of these answers to these questions. And he, just like his former boss, will possibly not respond ever to our inquiries, or will like most lawyers prefer to do, respond with threats to sue this publication and could actually go ahead and sue and life will move on for the former shareholders of the defunct banks.
The sun will rise and set and it will be another day of justice delayed.

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India’s COVID ’emergency’ amid record jump in virus infections | India News

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India has recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 new COVID-19 infections as a second wave of the pandemic raised new fears about the crumbling health services’ ability to cope.

Health officials across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, said they were in crisis, with most hospitals full and running out of oxygen on Thursday.

Some doctors were advising patients to stay at home, while a crematorium in the eastern city of Muzaffarpur said it was being overwhelmed with bodies and grieving families had to wait for their turn. A crematorium east of Delhi built funeral pyres in its parking lot.

“Right now there are no beds, no oxygen. Everything else is secondary,” Shahid Jameel, a virologist and director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, told Reuters news agency.

“The infrastructure is crumbling.”

Some hospitals in New Delhi had run out of oxygen and authorities in neighbouring states were stopping supplies being taken to the capital to save it for their own needs, the city’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia said.

“It might become difficult for hospitals here to save lives,” Sisodia said in a televised address.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said there was a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, with the city needing about 5,000 more than it could find.

“We can’t call this a comfortable situation,” he told reporters.

India’s Supreme Court has likened the situation to a “national emergency” and directed the federal government to prepare a national plan on oxygen supply, essential drugs and vaccinations.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Museveni: New Cabinet to Study White Paper on Land Inquiry

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NALI, KYANKWANZI: The report compiled by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire will be studied by the new cabinet and also be recommended as a white paper to enable government tackle the issue of land management in Uganda.

“The the new Cabinet will study the report and write a white paper in response. The report shall be taken back to the public to feed in their views before implementation. That is why the team on the commission of inquiry into land issues came to enlighten the MPs elect at the retreat about land issues,” he said.

The President was on April 21, contributing to a paper delivered by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the Chairperson of the Commission of inquiry into Land Matters to the NRM MPs Elect, attending a political induction training course at NALI in Kyankwanzi district.

The paper titled the Commission of Inquiry into the Effectiveness of the law, policies and Processes of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda gave an overview of the key findings and recommendations of the land inquiry whose recommendation require bold action by government on land issue.

The President, who was flanked by the First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also the Minister of Education and Sports, noted that when the colonial government apportioned land in Uganda into Mailo land, Crown land and gazetted areas of swamps, forests and water bodies and game reserves, Uganda had no challenge of land fragmentation, which he said was caused by population increase and poor land inheritance practices.

According to Museveni, the report, once implemented, shall cure both current and historical land problems which have existed since the colonial era citing the mailo land  that the british gave to chiefs and their collaborators  in areas of Buganda and Bunyoro.

“I think, this report shall help us to dismantle the old and barbaric laws that for long have hard-pressed our people, please help me to stabilize the situation once and for all,” he said.

The President also decried the increasing land fragmentation that has been a common practice in areas of Kigezi, Rwenzori, Mbale, Busoga among others where people have continuously divided land into tiny pieces.

Museveni makes a presentation at NALI

He blamed some of the NRM leaders who give a deaf ear to the advice of government against this vice.

“The issue of land fragmentation in the country should be addressed by law and also be properly legislated by the 11th Parliament. The MPs should sensitize their people that land should not be fragmented,” he said.

The President advised the people that to avoid any possibility of land fragmentation on family land, the members of a family should instead form a trust/foundation for them to use the land jointly and later share the profits as shareholders of the enterprise.

The President said the commission’s report gives government what he described as a ‘soft landing’ to handle cases of eviction, tackling wetlands management, road reserves provisions when connecting water pipes, lying cables of any kind and passing electricity installations.

President Museveni said that land matters need to be handled with keen interest, adding that Uganda’s accelerated move towards industrialization has made land as a resource gain more value.

“Industrial revolution in the country has enabled land to have value. I want to thank Justice Bamugemereire and team for the findings into the land issues that have affected many people in the country,” he said.

Justice Bamugemereire said the report findings and observations hinged on aspects of land administrations and registration processes, Uganda land commission and the land fund that were not operated in accordance with the law, mismanagement of wetlands, forests, wildlife reserves, fraudulent surveys and issuance of land titles in protected areas, targeted compensation on government projects, land acquisition and land dispute resolution.

The Commission among other things wants government to addresses the challenge of the perceived subservient position of customary land by ensuring that all land including customary land is registered.

“All land in the country should be put on a register after an adjudication process,” Bamugemereire said.

The Commission also recommends the establishment of an institutional framework for administration of customary land within Uganda Land Services Bureau framework.

The Land dispute situation, according to Bamugemereire was found by the commission to be a pandemic, in which mostly the well-to do persons have obtained land through illegal means, bribing their way through all systems of land administration and registration.

Former Buganda minister, Owek Robert Kasule Sebunya, who was part of the 7-member committee asked President Museveni and MPs Elect to rebuke judges who simply issue court orders to court bailiffs to evict people in ackward hours.

The President later thanked the day’s facilitators for their far enriching presentations including the Commander of Defense Forces Gen. David Muhoozi who presented a paper on ‘Understanding Uganda’s National Interests and Security Paradigm’ for promoting Pan-Africanism and regional integration, the Minister of Security  Gen. Elly Tumwine who presented a paper on the ‘Historic Mission of  NRM Revolution and the Role of a Member of Parliament in Securing the Future’ and Major Emmy Katabazi, the Deputy Director of ISO who presented a paper on the roles of security organizations ESO and ISO as rendering a service but not acting as force like UPDF.

The topics on Security and Sovereignty of the country were discussed by Major General Kahinda Otafiire the Minister of East Africa Community Affairs.

The post Museveni: New Cabinet to Study White Paper on Land Inquiry first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Vienna talks: US gives Iran ‘examples’ of sanctions it could lift | Nuclear Energy News

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A US official said details on which sanctions could be lifted, and which sanctions are being reviewed, have been shared.

The United States has shared with Iran details of sanctions it is prepared to lift under a return to the 2015 nuclear accord, a senior US official has said, but there will be difficulty in untangling some sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump.

The update comes as the US and Iran completed their second round of indirect talks in Vienna on how to restore a nuclear accord, which Trump withdrew from in 2018. The agreement saw Tehran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

Upon walking away from the deal, the Trump administration pursued a campaign of “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has continued to violate provisions of the agreement, citing Washington’s withdrawal.

“We have provided Iran with a number of examples of the kind of sanctions that we believe we would need to lift in order to come back into compliance and the sanctions that we believe we would not need to lift,” the US official told reporters late on Wednesday.

The official added that the US, through intermediaries, presented Iran with three baskets of sanctions: those it is prepared to lift, those it is not prepared to lift and those that will require further study to determine if they are in fact appropriate for relief under the nuclear deal.

The third category constitutes “difficult cases”, including sanctions the Trump administration appeared to reimpose “purely for the purpose of preventing” Biden from re-entering the deal, the official said.

The 2015 agreement – which also includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia and the European Union – allowed countries to continue to impose sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear reasons, such as “support for terrorism” and human rights abuses.

While many of the sanctions that Trump imposed on Iran were clearly related to the nuclear programme, others imposed on “terrorism” and “human rights” grounds are being reviewed to determine if they were legitimately related to those alleged abuses, or were also punishment for Iran’s nuclear activity, the official said.

The official said there are still “pretty important” disagreements over returning to the deal, adding the talks were expected to be a multi-round process.

‘Open to different kinds of sequencing’

Iran has pressed for the US to lift all sanctions imposed under Trump before it rolls back the steps it has taken away from the deal, however, the US official said Washington and Tehran have not yet gone into detail during the indirect talks on the question of who makes the first move.

“We’re open to different kinds of sequencing which meets our interest – which is to see both sides in full compliance,” the official said.

He declined to confirm a Wall Street Journal report that the Biden administration has voiced a willingness to ease sanctions on the Iranian finance and oil sectors.

The European parties to the agreement had last week expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s move to boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity in response to what Tehran says was an attack by Israel against the key nuclear facility of Natanz. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.

The step will bring Iran closer to the 90 percent purity threshold for military use and shorten its potential “breakout time” to build an atomic bomb – a goal Tehran denies.

Nevertheless, Russia’s representative Mikhail Ulyanov said this week after a meeting of the deal’s so-called Joint Commission of senior officials from France, Germany, Britain, China and Iran that they had noted “with satisfaction the progress in negotiations to restore the nuclear deal”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, has voiced optimism about the talks, saying that negotiations have made “60-70 percent progress”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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