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Con bishop steals billions from Ugandans



In Padre Pio House, a building in the upscale part of Kampala, Nakasero, a self-styled bishop laid his trap for unsuspecting Ugandans, who were eager to invest their money.

Fred Ntabazi, who calls himself bishop, is a short man with a fair complexion and round eyes, which are seemingly kind, gentle and inviting. Some would not be faulted if they thought him cute. He had the trimmings of a man of God: a smooth voice, gentle eyes, down-to-earth attitude and Godly salutations. He would walk into his office greeting everyone with a smile, saying, “Mukama waffe yebazibwe” [Let us be thankful to our Lord].

Little did they know that underneath it all was a conman, a fraudster, who was smiling his way to amass billions from rich, fair earners and poor Ugandans that entrusted him with their money to invest in forex trading with his company, Pio Crypto Center Investment Limited.       

His proposal was simple: invest a minimum of Shs 5m and, after a fortnight, get 10% [Shs 500, 000] every week for the next 48 weeks. This meant that an investor of Shs 5m would make Shs 24m after 48 weeks, and not many Ugandans would say no to that. Drawn to the prospect of prosperity, a chance to rise from the ditch of poverty, many were ensnared by his scheme.

Some borrowed from banks, saving schemes and loan sharks, and others sold assets: land, cars and houses to invest in forex trading. Ntabazi had a calculated method that guaranteed his fraudulent success. He assigned agents, who cleverly picked their marks [read victims] with the promise of 10% weekly deposits from the lucrative forex trading.

The agents started convincing people within their circles first, and urged them to get more people to invest in the scheme so as to spread prosperity to all their loved ones, colleagues and neighbours. And that’s exactly what the unsuspecting marks did, especially after receiving the promised weekly 10% deposits on their bank accounts, mobile money or even physically picking the money on either Friday or Saturday.  

This went on until December 7, 2019 for some and December 14th when the weekly deposits came to an abrupt end. But earlier in November 2019 the, Internal Security Organisation had arrested Andrew Kaggwa, the chief executive officer of Global Cryptocurrencies Limited, for fleecing victims of money to the tune of Shs 15 billion.

When this news broke, Ntabazi’s stalwarts assured his victims that it would never happen to them because their business was legitimate. Ntabazi himself told concerned investors, who ran to his office to inquire about the safety of their investment, that all was well because he had connections to State House. He said, “Ndi wamunju,” to mean, “No one can touch me because I am related to State House.”

Little did the marks know that December 14, 2019 was the last time they would receive deposits on their accounts. Even then, on December 14, Ntabazi called for a meeting with investors at his offices to explain how the banks were against them. That, he said, explains why there was a glitch in making the deposits. He said banks were jealous that people were making money through forex trading and cryptocurrency.

He then assured his investors that after sorting the issue with the banks, payments would resume on December 21. Ntabazi, who was good at buying time, then explained that the forex trading system had slowed down during the Christmas festive season and business would resume on January 11, 2020.

At that point the investors still had hope in the smooth-talking ‘bishop’, who assured them that he wasn’t running away and that the offices were still open, which showed that he was genuine. Come January 11 and another set of lies spewed from his convincing mouth and it was the same line he had previously used, but with a different meaning. “Ndi wamunju,” he said, but this time he meant that no one could touch him in a sense that no one can bring him to book.

The incensed investors, who had gathered to get an explanation as to why their accounts had not been credited, charged, saying, “We are going to sue you.” To which Ntabazi replied, “Go ahead, no one can touch me.”

It was quite shocking to see the veil lifted from his sweet face to reveal the menacing fraudster that Ntabazi actually is. His investors shook their heads in disbelief when Ntabazi exited the room and this time he didn’t have his godly, warm smile, but a sneer.

True to his method of managing investors, Ntabazi’s agents were deployed, but this time to manage their marks. So, the marks kept calling and WhatsApping the agents for any news, a sign that all will be well; and the agents played their part, assuring them that the system will return to normal at the end of January when stock markets were back to full operation.

January 30 came and more lies came out. “You will get your money on February 15th,” reported the agents to their marks. Excitedly, one young woman exclaimed that that would be the best Valentine’s gift she would have ever received if the money was deposited on February 15.

Ntabazi and his fraudulent crew were really cunning and devised a way to give people hope, but not money. He said since the banks, and later the government, did not want people to have money, they were frustrating the payment process onto people’s accounts. He then said he had started a Sacco, Kampala Digital Financial Commodities Traders Cooperative Society Limited (KDFC) so that investors transfer their money to the Sacco because the laws of Uganda were a little relaxed on Sacco operations.

Some marks followed his advice and transferred their accounts to the Sacco, which meant that they could no longer demand for their 10% weekly deposits because they had collapsed that agreement in favour of the Sacco.  

February came and went, and the promise of payment was deferred to the end of March for those that did not agree to joining the Sacco. Unfortunately, that is when the global pandemic, COVID-19, struck and everything was at a standstill. For Ntabazi, this was a blessing in disguise because he got the breather he wanted from investors.

As March turned into April, May, June, July and now August, the marks are still waiting for justice, for Ntabazi to return their money. Some ran to the police and registered complaints against him, but the police said it was hard to arrest him in the lockdown.

Others sought refuge at the Anti-Corruption Unit, under State House, but Lt Col Edith Nakalema sent them away, saying the office had more than enough cases and it was not taking on any news cases.

Ntabazi’s curse

For this article, I was unable to reach Ntabazi because his phone was off. But much as he may dodge calls, his victims hope he won’t be able to escape the law, and most especially, God’s vengeance because some were duped for trusting the man of God, who would bless them with oil when they dropped by his office. His church, One Light International Ministries, was situated on the fifth floor of Padre Pio Building too.

To Catholics, Padre Pio is a saint, who intercedes for them and their prayers are answered by God. Now he must mourn the misuse of his name in that scheme because instead of miraculous investments, the victims have suffered such a financial setback that has only been aggravated by the pandemic.

As they look to God to punish the man and his agents for using His name to lure them, the victims also pray the law of the land will rein him in and return their precious savings.

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FDC activists win Bank of Uganda pig case by simply keeping quiet




FDC activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja

Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has acquitted two opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja of common nuisance charges.

FDC deputy chief administrative officer Ojobile and Mayanja have been acquitted by the grade one magistrate Fidelis Otwao on charges stemming from their protest held in November 2018 when they carried pig heads to the central police station (CPS) in Kampala protesting the rot in the Bank of Uganda that had reportedly resulted into the closure of a number of commercial banks in the country for many years.

According to them, corruption at the Central bank had been the sole ingredient for the closure of commercial banks in Uganda over the years because it reportedly mismanaged them and made erroneous decisions that led to their closure.

With fresh pig heads tied around their necks and stinking blood oozing across their white T-shirts, Mayanja and Ojobile walked through the streets of Kampala to the police in a protest that was spearheaded by their pressure group known as the Jobless Youth.

One pig head had a placard bearing the name of the former and late BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and the other of his former deputy Louis Kasekende.

The protest at CPS came a few days after another that was staged at the Central bank where two piglets were dumped bearing the name of Juma Kisaame (a Muslim), the former managing director of DFCU bank. 

As a result, the duo was arrested and taken to Buganda Road court on charges of common nuisance and the prosecution adduced evidence from five witnesses who included police officers and Muslims who were reportedly angered by the protest.

According to the witnesses, the actions of Mayanja and Ojobile were annoying to the people whose names were mentioned and tagged on pig heads, and the smell that was coming out of the fresh pig heads was most likely to result in injury to a considerable number of the public by affecting their health, and the protest affected businesses since some shops allegedly had to close to see what was happening outside due to their commotion.

But when Mayanja and Ojobile were asked to defend themselves over the allegations, the duo that didn’t have legal representation chose to keep quiet as their defense and let the court make its decision based on what the prosecution witnesses had testified to.

In a judgement read today Friday by Otwao, he indicated that the evidence from the prosecution witnesses is wanting because none of the people alleged to have been annoyed by the actions of the activists testified in the case or recorded a statement with police.

According to Otwao, the testimonies were based on what the witnesses were feeling as individuals and that there were no abusive statements on the pig heads that the prosecution had indicated which would cause annoyance, save for putting the names of people only. 

As such, the court has ruled that such testimonies cannot be relied on to convict a person because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was common injury, danger to the public or destruction of property.

Consequently, the magistrate has acquitted the duo and directed that each of them starts the process to seek a refund of the Shs 500,000 that each had paid to be released on bail.

The activists have welcomed the ruling saying that the court has recognized that the citizens have a right to protest peacefully.

The pig protests have been commonly used by activists who subscribe to this group known as the Jobless Brotherhood which has since rebranded to the “Alternative”.

In 2016, their members including Luta Ferdinand who is now facing trial in the court-martial on different charges, and Joseph Lukwago were arrested for dumping piglets at parliament protesting the Shs 200 million given to each MP for buying personal cars.

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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in a single day | Death Penalty News




The death penalty applied for a range of charges in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom’s modern history.

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 men over the past 24 hours, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, on charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”, state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” SPA said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

Some travelled to conflict zones to join “terrorist organisations”, according to the SPA.

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” it said.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution was in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shia leader who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shia, in a mass execution across the country for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights records have been under increasing scrutiny from rights groups and Western allies since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

It has faced strong criticism of its restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and the implementation of the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security according to its laws.

SPA said the accused were provided with the right to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.

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Nigerian student in Ukraine: 'Mummy we keep hearing bombs'




Hauwa’s son Suleiman is a Nigerian student in Sumy – she says the family are fearful and anxious.

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