David Balondemu, the president of the Kampala District Land Board, and his co-accused Geoffrey Mkwe have been released on bail.
Rehema Nassozi, a City Hall court grade one magistrate, released the pair this week. They are accused, together with businessmen James Jeff Mugisha and Godfrey Mabirizi, of receiving money from a Korean investor under false pretenses and conspiring to defraud.
According to the state prosecution, the accused, along with others still at large, received $600,000 (approximately Shs 2.2 billion) in the offices of Balondemu & Company Advocates on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala between March and November 2021. They allegedly pretended to sell 53kg of gold to Hyun UK Kim, a Korean investor.
The accused, who appeared in court at various times last month, disputed the charges. They applied for bail through their separate attorneys, which included Caleb Alaka, Evans Ochieng, and Mukasa Mbidde. Balondemu, the primary suspect, stated that he was a court officer with extensive and undeniable legal knowledge as a lawyer.
Dr. Richard Lukandwa, a consultant physician at the Medical Hub, Richard Collins Kiberu, managing director of C and C Investments and Goldmark Property Limited, his wife Slyvia Bahizi, an employee of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), and businesswoman Betty Nakayima, who deals in chemicals with Sunrise Luxury SMC, all served as sureties.
The prosecution, lead by state attorney Mercy Yamangusho Khaidarah, rejected the bail applications, claiming that the accused’s release would harm ongoing investigations. Nassozi deemed the sureties to be substantial in her verdict and granted the lawyers’ bail applications.
Balondemu and Mkwe were ordered to pay Shs 20 million in cash, while their sureties were had to execute a Shs 200 million non-cash bond. They were also forced to surrender their passports to the court and were forbidden from leaving the country without permission from the court.
The co-accused, who were the first to be arrested and imprisoned, were held until November 15 to allow the prosecution to verify the papers given in their bail application and to provide an update on the status of the investigations. The decision was given in a crowded courtroom filled with Balondemu supporters wearing white t-shirts with his name and photographs with the message “We need Evidence and Justice for Balondemu David.”
Balondemu was arrested by detectives from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and detained at the Special Investigations Department in Kireka for three days before being produced in court and subsequently remanded to Luzira prison where he spent 16 days.
Several law firms in Kampala have been implicated in gold scams, with allegations of connivance with suspects. However, these firms maintain that they are accused of providing legal services to their clients and nothing else.