Kampala. The Court of Appeal has acquitted former principal accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Geoffrey Kazinda after completing his sentence in prison.
He was acquitted by a panel of three justices: Mr Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Mr Stephen Musota and Ms Percy Night Tuhaise.
Kazinda had spent five years in prison as he waited for the disposal of his appeal. The judges ruled that Mr Kazinda was jailed for offences he did not commit.
“This appeal, therefore, succeeds. We accordingly set aside the judgment and orders of the trial court and order for the appellant’s (Mr Kazinda) immediate release unless he is held on other lawful charges,” the judges ruled.
“Before we take leave of this appeal, we wish to express our displeasure at the poor conduct of investigations in this case. The investigations were bungled and lacked professionalism. It left a lot to be desired,” the jurists further held.
Kazinda represented himself in court.
He had been found guilty in 2013 of forging 26 signatures of his then boss and former permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s office, Mr Pius Bigirimana.
Kazinda still faces other corruption cases which include illicit enrichment of Shs4.6b and 69 other charges where he is accused of stealing more than Shs5.4b meant for post-war recovery programme in northern region.
On the charge of abuse of office, the prosecution’s case was that the home of Kazinda’s mother, Ms Teopista Nanfuka, was searched and a number of items were recovered.
However, in the appeal, Kazinda argued that the items were planted.
The justices in their reevaluation of the evidence observed that there were no photographs of the said recovered documents.
The evidence in the lower court was that a search certificate exhibited as P8 indicated cash withdrawal forms bearing the signatures of both Kazinda and Mr Bigirimana.
The prosecution had submitted that Kazinda kept sensitive documents for the OPM bearing forged signatures of his boss, which he used to transfer public and donor funds from the Treasury general account.
“From the above provisions relating to the search, there must be a search warrant for a search to be carried out. The evidence on record shows that a search was carried out without a search warrant and certain documents were allegedly recovered from his brother’s room,” the justices observed.
The justices also blamed the prosecution’s claim that Kazinda had absconded from duty in August 2012 yet his leave was still running.
The prosecution relied on the evidence of the handwriting expert report to prove that Kazinda defrauded OPM before the Anti-Corruption Court.
However, the Court of Appeal justices observed that the handwriting expert’s report showed that there were fundamental differences between Qs and Ss and that there were several differences between the questioned signatures attributed to Mr Bigirimana.
The judges held that given the circumstances, they could not ignore Kazinda’s contention that the alleged documents were planted in his mother’s house.