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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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Attorney General William Byaruhanga Beats Up Journalists Over Protests

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There was drama in Kololo Sunday 4th August afternoon when Attorney General William Byaruhanga abruptly stopped his Land cruiser along KololoTerrace descended and rained blows on two photo journalists from unidentified media houses.
The jouralists took off in awe. The Attorney was neither expected in the area nor were his furious actions.

Byaruhanga proceeded in rage to pluck off posters in every spot they had been pinned along Kololo Terrace.

The journalists had been taking pictures of posters of Byaruhanga , Masembe and Karim Hirji which had been pinned in many spots in Kololo, lugogo bypass and Naguru.
The posters portray the trio as evil and heartless greedy men suppressing orphans of the late Hirji wife Ziba Charm.
The brawl in Karim family seems to have taken on a new twist with the public starting to sympathise with the late Charm orphans.
Civil society groups and individuals have joined the campaign to seek justice for Karim’s step children.

Social media has been dominated in the past weeks with stories to the effect that city tycoon Hirji was helped by William Byaruhanga and Timothy Masembe to forge his late wife’s will and subsequently converted all her properties and Bank accounts in Uganda and London

Some have called for a peaceful demonstration while others have printed posters denouncing Karim and his lawyers Masembe Timothy of MMAKS and William Byaruhanga.
The public awaits direction from President Museveni and the Speaker of Parliament following a petition to both high offices by Karims srep children led by a one Linda Birungi.

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Appeals court delays release of Ghislaine Maxwell deposition | News

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An appeals court in the United States on Friday temporarily delayed the release of a 2016 deposition about Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex life, after she argued it could destroy her ability to get a fair trial against criminal charges she aided the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals issued the order after last-ditch scrambles by Maxwell to keep potentially embarrassing information, which her lawyer said could make it “difficult if not impossible” to find an impartial jury, out of the public eye.

Maxwell’s appeal will be heard on an expedited basis, with oral argument scheduled for September 22.

Her deposition had been taken in April 2016 for a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against the British socialite by Virginia Giuffre, who had accused Epstein of having kept her as a “sex slave” with Maxwell’s assistance.

Dozens of other documents from that case were released late on Thursday, after the presiding judge concluded that the public had a right to see them.

The release of Maxwell’s deposition had been scheduled for Monday, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and eventually abuse three girls from 1994 to 1997, and committing perjury by denying her involvement under oath.

She was arrested on July 2 and has been held in a Brooklyn jail after a judge denied bail, calling her a flight risk. Maxwell’s trial is scheduled for next July.

Epstein was found hanged at age 66 last August in a Manhattan jail, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges for abusing women and girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005. He had also pleaded not guilty.

In seeking to keep Maxwell’s deposition sealed, her lawyers said in court papers on Thursday she had been promised confidentiality by Giuffre’s lawyers and the presiding judge at the time, through an agreed-upon protective order, before answering many personal, sensitive and “allegedly incriminatory” questions about her dealings with Epstein.

They said further that Maxwell was blindsided when prosecutors quoted from the deposition in her indictment, and accusing Giuffre of leaking the deposition to the government.

In a court filing on Friday, Giuffre’s lawyers called Maxwell’s appeal “frivolous, and a transparent attempt to further delay the release of documents to which the public has a clear and unequivocal right to access”.

The lawyers also called the allegation Giuffre leaked the deposition “completely and utterly false”.

Friday’s order also covers a second deposition by an unnamed Epstein accuser that Maxwell also wanted to be kept under seal. Other documents from Giuffre’s lawsuit that quote or disclose information from the depositions also remain sealed.

Among the documents released on Thursday were a few emails between Epstein and Maxwell dated January 2015, including one where Epstein told Maxwell that she had done “nothing wrong”.

Lawyers for Maxwell said on July 10 in a court filing requesting bail in her criminal case that she had not been in contact with Epstein for “more than a decade”.

Maxwell is now battling prosecutors in her criminal case about the scope of a protective order intended to protect her right to a fair trial while ensuring the privacy of her accusers.

SOURCE:
Reuters news agency





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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US: House Democrats subpoena Pompeo for documents on Hunter Biden | News

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The Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding documents he provided to Senate Republicans investigating the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 

A Republican-led Senate committee has been gathering information related to Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president who is set to be Republican President Donald Trump’s opponent in the November election.

Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said Friday he had issued the subpoena as part an investigation into Pompeo’s “apparent use of Department of State resources to advance a political smear of former Vice President Joe Biden”.

The subpoena also asks for internal department emails about responding to Congress.

The committee says Pompeo had delivered more than 16,000 pages of records to the Senate but refused to send the same materials to the Democrat-led House.

“I want to see the full record of what the department has sent to the Senate and I want the American people to see it too,” the House committee’s chairman, Representative Eliot Engel, said in a statement. 

The younger Biden is a former board member of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which was thrust into the global spotlight last year in a House impeachment inquiry into whether Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s leader into opening an investigation into the Bidens.

Trump made the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a July 2019 phone call that was later revealed by a whistle-blower’s complaint. 

The House impeached Trump in December for pressuring the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation while withholding military aid to the country. The Senate acquitted him in February.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma.

Democrats have criticised Senate Republicans for continuing to probe the allegations against Biden, saying it amplifies Russian propaganda. 

Foreign interference

House and Senate Democratic leaders sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray last month saying they are concerned that Congress appears to be the target of a “concerted foreign interference campaign to influence the 2020 presidential election, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November”. 

The letter, which did not specifically mention the probe into Hunter Biden, but included a classified addendum that reportedly did, asked Wray for an all-members, classified briefing on the possible targeting of Congress before the August recess. 

Wray has not yet offered the requested briefing, but legislators did receive a classified briefing early Friday on general election security. Leaving that meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is concerned “the American people should be better informed”.

The new efforts by Democrats come as the nation’s intelligence agencies, congressional intelligence committees and Joe Biden have all warned of renewed election interference by Russia this year. Trump himself has been loath to discuss the subject or acknowledge that Russia tried to sow discord in the 2016 contest by hacking Democratic accounts and pushing out inflammatory content on social media.

Still, his administration has warned that Russia and other countries will likely try again.

In a statement last week, William Evanina, the government’s chief counterintelligence official, said adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran are seeking to compromise US private communications and infrastructure in campaigns. It also warned of disinformation campaigns on social media.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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