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Bagyenda’s billions: Is she a hardworking, money-wise civil servant or a corrupt money launderer?

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Justine Bagyenda held several bank accounts where she did significantly large transactions; at least larger than her known salary at the central bank. While we cannot competently call her a money launderer, her act of wiring money from her DTB Account to her Barclays account and then wiring it to another third party account in Centenary Bank, in 47 regular but smaller transactions, only for it be withdrawn almost immediately, has all the hallmarks of money laundering. But good enough, already the Inspector General of Government is already investigating her, so if she is innocent, she will get to prove herself innocent.

Justine Bagyenda was last month shown the door at BoU after decades of service.

Although the central bank recently denied that the much-feared former Executive Director, Justine Bagyenda, had been forced into early retirement, news emerging about her vast real estate riches and, most recently, her multi-billion bank balances, could shade a light into why Governor Tumusiime Mutebile could have swung an axe, months before her retirement was due.

Her early retirement – seen by many as “handling with kid gloves, one of their own” and the fact that she was able to engage is several suspicious transactions undetected, also puts the supervision efficiency of the central bank into serious question.

But more importantly, it remains to be seen if Uganda’s much touted anti-corruption and anti-money laundering agencies–the Inspectorate of Government and the Financial Intelligence Authority–will bring this curious case of Bagyenda, to a satisfactory closure.

Unexplainable real estate properties

News about Bagyenda’s vast real estate empire, consisting of over 16 properties in prime locations in Kampala and Western Uganda first surfaced mid last year, prompting an open complaint to the Inspectorate of Government by Denis Nyombi, a city lawyer.

A search at the lands ministry indeed confirmed that Bagyenda in 2011 acquired a condominium flat, at Plot 5A Sunderland Avenue Kampala, in Kampala, measuring 214 square metres; it is said that she lives here with her family.

She also owns another prime condominium registered as number 0025 on Plot 410-411 Makerere Hill Road, measuring about 99 square metres; acquired on July 11, 2008.

She is also said to own many other properties in Kampala, such as one on Plot 410-411 Makerere Hill Road, Plot 28, Kimera Close, Ntinda and Plot 20, Balikuddembe Road.

Several property search reports, seen by this business news website, show Bagyenda, her children and other people believed to be her relatives either individually or jointly own properties in Kampala, Ntungamo and Mbarara.

According to Chimp Reports, a local news website, Bagyenda is said to have, speaking through and associate, defended herself as having either worked for the said properties as well as inherited others from Cliff Bagyenda (her late husband).

But a closer look at those properties, reveals a suspicious pattern.

Family smokescreen?

Although in an earlier defence, she said that she inherited some of the properties from her “gainfully employed” husband- the Late Cliff Bagyenda who passed on either late 1994 or early 1995,

Searches at the registrar of companies, show that whereas her husband passed on either late 1994 or early 1995, only 2 out of the suspected 16 properties were acquired on or before 1st February 1995.

And of these, only one property, a leasehold, land at Plot 28 Kimera Close was transferred to Bagyenda on February 1, 1995 measuring approx. 0.130 Hectares for 44 years, by virtue of her being an administratrix of the Estate of the Late Cliff Bagyenda (Administrative Cause No.359 of 1995).

The only other property acquired before 1995, is Plot 20 Balikudembe Road (land measuring approx. 0.1390 Hectares Registered on 30th March 1993) and was a direct acquisition by her.

The other 14 are either owned single-handedly owned by her and or jointly with her children/relatives- Carolyn Agaba, Olivia Murembe and Robert Muhumuza Bagyenda.

What is even strange is that, of the 14 properties acquired after her husband’s death, 11 were acquired and or registered between October 2015 and June 2016- after she became Executive Director in 2011.

On some days, 2-3 properties would be registered further casting questions on the sources of her income.

For example, on October 15, 2015, she and her three relatives registered two properties (Plotts 10 and 21) at Ministry of Lands, all located at Museveni Road in Ntungamo Municipality–measuring 0.0840 and 0.0820 Hectares.

On the same day, Olivia Murembe registered yet another piece of land (Plot 19) on the same road, measuring 0.0820 hectares.

On that same day, Bagyenda and the three relatives and or partners registered another property at Plot No.10, Kaguta Road in Mbarara Municipality.

On February 2, 2016, Robert Muhumuza Bagyenda registered Block 200, Plot 1548- Munyonyo Makindye Division- measuring approx. 0.0700 Hectares and Carolyn Agaba registered land at Nakawa Division, Block 205, Plot 1352.

On June 15, 2016, Bagyenda registered three properties – two leases for Block 82, Plot No 410-411 and Block 82, Plot No 5A and Plot 1-7, St Kizito Close–all in Nakawa division.

Bagyenda’s multiple high value bank accounts

With the dust yet to settle on the sources of funds, used to secure those properties, given her monthly income- said to be about Shs30 million, new information has surfaced showing, Bagyenda runs several Shilling and Dollar bank accounts, further deepening the Bagyenda wealth mystery.

For example, as of December 28, 2014, Bagyenda held a cash balance of $238, 563 on her Diamond Trust Bank US Dollar account.

From this account, she on December 29, 2016, made a fixed deposit of $1776, 717 which matured in December 2017. On maturity, she on December 29th 2017 topped it up and made another fixed deposit of $214,149 on December 29, 2017 at an interest rate of 3 percent.

This amount is set to mature on December 29, 2018, and she will make an interest of $5,536 after a tax deduction of $977.
Bagyenda has also been making Shilling based fixed deposits in the same bank.

For example in March 2014, she fixed Shs900,029,548 for 31 days, which matured on 26th April 2014. She later fixed some Shs568m in November 2014 for another 31 days.

In January 2015 and September 2017 she made other short term fixed deposits of Shs480,000,000 and Shs179.3 million respectively.

Bagyenda is said to hold another account in Standard Chartered.

It is however her outbound transactions at her two personal current accounts in Barclays Bank (Kampala Road) and Diamond Trust Bank that could give a crew to at least how Bagyenda invested her money, whose source is not yet clear.
A closer analysis of these two accounts, shows three patterns.

For example, on her DTB account, she would start by making various cash deposits (ranging between $5,000 to $50,000 or the equivalent in Shillings), then raise enough amounts to invest in fixed deposits.

She would then after making some gains in interest rate, eventually clear the accounts to third parties who are variously linked to real estate development. It is believed, the money at this point would be ‘cleaned’ in form of real estate.

On her Personal Current Account held at Barclays, in just a year–between August 2015 to September 2016–Bagyenda made 47 wire (RTGS) transactions to account No. 2120011273 in Centenary Bank, belonging to a one Kenny Muwonge in Centenary Bank.

In total Shs693 million was wired to Kenny Muwonge.

The money would be wired at regular intervals in tranches of between Shs10 million to Shs30 million and would almost be withdrawn immediately in cash and or via mobile money. Muwonge would also on some occasions wire the money to another account in the same bank, belonging to Ken and Joe Construction Company Limited.

The construction company is owned by Kenny Muwonge and Joe Semugoma, the former Director Finance and Administration at Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). It is not clear whether the money was intended for construction activities but one would wonder why she did not send it directly to the company account.

Was Ken Muwonge a front for finally liquidating and or cleaning the dirty money, especially given that the Barclays account was largely funded by proceeds from the trading at DTB Bank as well as significant large cash deposits by Justine herself?

Much of the financial transactions were driven from the inappropriately named Low Start Savings Account at DTB, No.5106903903 that between February 2014 and September 2017 had Shs10.4 billion go through it.

Much as several of the fixed deposits on this account have been mentioned before and largely dominated the activity on this account, but a couple of other transactions leaving this account also stand out.
Of particular interest is five transactions between the 1st of March 2017 and 8th September, totaling Shs950 million wired to Tibeingana & Co Advocates.

The first tranche of Shs350 million was wired on March 1st, followed by another UGX100.2million.

On June 10, 2017 Bagyenda wired to Shs150 million, 3 days after it matured from Fixed deposit transaction. This was followed by another Shs100 million on 10th July as well as another Shs250m.

We could not establish the purpose of the transactions, but Deox Tibeingana, the owner of the law firm, also has interests in real estate development, with properties for sale in prime locations such as Mbuya and Munyonyo and it is highly likely that Bagyenda was purchasing property from this real estate firm.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck…

It is literally difficult at this point to exactly tell the sources of this money and what it was intended for at its destination, or whether these third party sources actually gave the money back to Bagyenda, but like they say, if it quacks like a duck, then it probably is one hell of a duck.
Property acquisitions are one way one common way of cleaning dirty money (money laundering) in Uganda and elsewhere around the world.

The Financial Institutions (Anti – Money Laundering) Regulations, 2010 (FIAMLR) define money laundering as “all activities and procedures designed to change the identity of illegally obtained money so that it appears to have originated from a legitimate source.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013 (AMLA) defines money laundering as “the process of turning illegitimately obtained property into seemingly legitimate property and it includes concealing or disguising the nature, source, location, disposition or movement of proceeds of crime and any activity which constitutes a crime”.

Money laundering activity may range from a single act, e.g., being in possession of the proceeds of one’s own crime, to complex and sophisticated schemes involving multiple parties, and multiple methods of handling and transferring criminal property as well as concealing it and entering into arrangements to assist others to do so.
Whereas one may not competently says that Bagyenda’s act of wiring money from her DTB account to her Barclays account and then wiring it to another third party account in Centenary Bank, in 47 regular but smaller transactions, only for it be withdrawn almost immediately, is not money laundering, one can as well say, “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

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