Uganda: new twist in MTN tax evasion case
MTN Uganda has lodged a formal complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in Uganda against the Chief Magistrate of the Buganda Road Magistrates Court, Sylvia Nabagala.
The telecommunications services provider has expressed grave concern about the magistrate’s professional misconduct, which the company claims is evident in her contradictory rulings and disregard of due process.
According to a media statement issued by the company, the complaint notes that the magistrate issued summons for the Directors and Executives of MTN to take a plea, yet the court record has no formal charges and the said summons were not reflected in the court record.
It is further noted that the summons are dated 7th November 2012, a day after the same magistrate had transferred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations.
Responding to published reports in the media about summons that had been issued against MTN Group CEO and directors to appear in court, MTN states that it was not aware of the issuance of the said summons, adding that when the company’s legal counsel checked with the court following the press articles, they learnt that the summons had been strangely extracted from Magistrate Nabagala by private lawyers who had earlier been ordered to hand over the matter to the DPP.
The complaint to the JSC further states that MTN lawyers, together with the Resident State Attorney, immediately sought audience with Magistrate Nabagala who confirmed the issuance of the summons. A perusal of the summons shows that, although the order to issue them was made on the 19th November 2012, they were dated 7th November 2012.
There was no charge sheet on the record nor was there a record of proceedings before her between 6th November, when she pronounced her ruling in an open court with counsel for all parties present, and 19th November, when the order was supposedly issued.
“For the Magistrate to have allowed that obviously ill-intentioned private person to obtain criminals summons in the manner she did, thus affording him the opportunity to have the same published to the world, knowing the negative consequences that portray, demonstrates gross recklessness and absolute indifference against our client.”, the complaint states.
According to MTN the alleged complainant, Mr. Naphtal Were, was already facing charges of defrauding MTN Uganda, USD5m as well as attempted fraud of UShs. 600 million from MTN Uganda. The company also says that in the process of searching his home, the police found stolen MTN property-11 solar power inverters, with an estimated value of UShs. 140 million.
In an official release to the media the company says without prejudice to the statement and clarification, it reserves its rights to prosecute any third party who will commit further defamation, or propagate false information to the detriment of MTN Uganda and the MTN Group as a whole.