The Buganda Road Magistrates Court has acquitted the former Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Airlines Cornwell Muleya on charges of disobedience of lawful orders by the Inspectorate of Government requiring him to record a statement on matters related corruption.
The Court presided over by Grade One Magistrate Asuman Muhumuza on Monday acquitted Muleya and set him free saying that he was satisfied with his defense that by the time he was summoned by the IGG, he was out of the country in South Africa and when he returned, he did not report as required because he was sick.
The Prosecutors from the IGG ‘s office led by Rogers Kinobe had initially accused Muleya of having been summoned on May 23, 2022 to provide documents regarding alleged mismanagement of Public funds, procurements and recruitment of staff at Uganda Airlines. However, even though other staff of Uganda Airlines successfully recorded witness statements, efforts to get Muleya were futile despite the fact that his phone details kept showing that he was in the country.
The IGG thus laid evidence from three witnesses who indicated that Muleya had failed to show up without any justifiable reason, prompting them to arrest him on June 22nd, 2022 for disobeying lawful orders.
Muleya was later, about two weeks ago, found with a case to answer over the allegations that were levied against him by the Prosecution and he was asked to defend himself.
In his defense, he told Court to discharge and set him free arguing that he did not disobey any lawful orders from the IGG as he had not seen any summons until May 24th 2022, when he was reviewing his emails and saw an email in the Junk box from a one G. Achana with an attachment of witness summons requiring him to report to the IGG’s office on June 1st, 2022.
Muleya explained that he needed to verify the authenticity of the said summons since the copy of the mail never showed details of the sender nor the subject matter to be discussed, and he had been asked to carry with him his passport, an issue he said made him get surprised as a foreigner over what it was needed for.
The Zambian national further argued that he also wondered why the IGG had not brought the summons to his home yet it is well known to them and as such, there was no effective and personal service as required under the Civil Procedure Regulations.
Muleya further defended himself that he later instructed his lawyer Charles Nsubuga to help him understand what is it exactly the IGG wanted to meet him for, yet the subject matter is before the High Court.
He added that his lawyers then wrote to the IGG on May 27th, 2022, and their letter was received by the IGG on May 31st, 2022. When he tried following up with his lawyers to find out if they had obtained any feedback from the IGG, they informed him that there was no response.
Muleya thus proceeded with his earlier scheduled program of traveling to South Africa and Dubai where he had meetings to attend to between June 7th and 14th 2022 and when he was called by the IGG officials, he promised to be available two weeks later only to return when he was sick suffering from high blood pressure.
To prove his defense, Muleya tendered before Court the documents from Mulago National Referral Hospital showing how he had been diagnosed with hypertension and given four types of medicine to swallow for ten days shortly after the doctors had managed his pressure with a drip because it was very high.
He also submitted before Court a copy of his passport to show stamps of how he exited Entebbe and entered South Africa and accessed Dubai before returning to Uganda at around the time he told the IGG that he was away.
Further, Muleya indicated that he is a law-abiding person and submitted documents from International Medical Clinic-IMC and electronic receipts from Emirates Airways to prove his case saying the IGG misunderstood the communication to verify the authenticity of the summons issued to him.
In his Judgement today, Muhumuza agreed with Muleya saying that his defense which was backed with documents that were never challenged by the Prosecution was satisfactory enough to prove that he did not disobey the lawful orders as charged by the State.
“Having exhausted the evidence as a whole and subjected it to thorough scrutiny, I find that Mr Muleya’s failure to appear before the Inspectorate was excusable,” said the magistrate.
Muhumuza has added that it is quite surprising that the IGG did not find the documents proving Muleya’s travel abroad and those showing his sickness compelling and went ahead to arrest and subsequently prosecute him.
According to the Magistrate, failure to communicate doesn’t attract a criminal offense and neither does it warrant prosecution and therefore Muleya’s failure to communicate after returning from abroad was excusable.
Muleya who has been out on bail has accordingly been set free.
The 50-year-old former CEO of Uganda Airlines Muleya had previously asked Court to release his passport to him sothat he coulf go abroad to different countries where he had been called to do business consultancy. But he has not been succeeding since the Prosecution would object that he could abscond from trial once the passport is released to him.
The acquittal now paves way for him to regain his passport which had been withheld by Court when he was granted bail about four months ago.
On April 21st, 2021, the Works and Transport Minister, Edward Katumba Wamala sent Muleya and 12 other top officials of the airline on forced leave on the orders of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to pave way for investigations into allegations of financial mismanagement, collusion, and nepotism in staff recruitment among other issues.
In February 2022, the Works and Transport Ministry Permanent Secretary terminated Muleya’s contract forcing him to file a complaint with Wakiso District Labour Office on April 4th, 2022 citing unlawful termination of his contract. However, the labor office referred the matter in which Muleya is seeking more than 3 billion Shillings, to the industrial court.