Total Uganda is still grappling with a case where a billionaire agent Hemal Kotecha, and their staff swindled them of UGX30Bn, and matters were made worse when Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo suspended all civil court proceedings at the onset of the just 42-day lockdown that elapsed on 30th July 2021 to comply with the presidential directives on COVID-19
Now with the country partially opened, the same for the judiciary following the directive by the Chief Justice on Tuesday that all the Magistrate courts in the country should resume hearing both criminal and civil cases while strictly observing the COVID-19 SOPs put in place by the ministry of health. Hearing of the case is set to resume in the civil division of the High Court next week.
Kotecha and four others regained their freedom after the court granted them bail in the case that the plaintiff (Total Uganda) accuses him of conniving with one of the company staff and led to a financial loss of over UGX30B in dubious fuels and lubricants supply deal.
In 2017 when Kotecha and a handful of Total Uganda staff reportedly connived to swindle goods worth UGX28,767,178,000 (Shillings twenty-eight billion, seven hundred, sixty-seven million one hundred and seventy-eight thousand) from the fuel giant. The products Kotecha bought with fictitious amounts of money include among others, petrol, diesel and lubricants totalling to the said amount of money.
It should be noted that Hemal Kotecha has been a retail fuel agent of Total Uganda for several years. He owns the mega Total Petro Station along Wampeewo Avenue opposite Hotel Africana and Total Kabuusu, adjacent to Masaka and Rubaga road in Rubaga Division, Kampala District. Both stations are among the busiest around town with tens of thousands of fuel sold daily, minus the busy shops in there.
But whereas he is the mastermind, guileful, prosecution believes that Kotecha could not have cracked the shabby deal alone. It is alleged that he sought the assistance of the Total Uganda staff, mainly from the Accounts department. The team would then apply their IT expertise to post the fictitious figures into Total Uganda Ltd computer networks, hence giving credence to the vice as true payment entries into the Company’s books of accounts.
“Ssebalu Moses, Nansikombi Priscillah, Belinda Nakasi and others still at large between 1st September 2017 and 30th September 2018 at Total Uganda Ltd Head Office, 8th Street Industrial Area in Kampala District, being employed by Total Uganda as Treasury Officer, Senior Accountant, Cashier and Treasury Assistance/Taxation Accountant respectively, stole (UGX28, 767,178,000/=), the property of their said employer,” reads the Charge Sheet entailed in Court documents.
Kotecha is also accused along with one Tugume Innocent, a Cash Dealer and resident of Mulawa Zone, Kira Division in Wakiso District. The entire team is accused of four counts which include Embezzlement contrary to section 19(b) (i) of the Anti-Corruption Act as amended and Electronic fraud contrary to section 19(1) (2) of the Computer Misuse Act 2001.
The other two are… Receiving stolen property contrary to section 314(1) of Penal Code Act, CAP 120 and Conspiracy to Defraud contrary to section 309 of the Penal Code Act, CAP 120. They “between 1st September 2017 and 30th September 2018 at Total Uganda Head Office, and other various places in the Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso Districts, conspired together to defraud Total Uganda of UGX28,767,178,000,” reaffirms the charge sheet further.
A resident of Tagore Crescent, Nakawa Division in Kampala District, Hemal Kotecha and Tugume Innocent are particularly charged with receiving stolen property. They “received petrol, diesel and lubricants worth (the said amount), the property of Total Uganda Ltd, knowing or having reason to believe the same to have been feloniously stolen,” court documents pin them deeper.
Kotecha and his accomplices are all out on bail. Their freedom automatically prolonged self when the dates on which they were meant to report back to court fell at the time when the Judiciary had been prematurely haggard into a holiday, thanks to the lockdown caused by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic which hit the country around May this year.
Court officials handling the matter intimated that a date for the group to reappear before court will be set immediately after the lifting of the lockdown. On his side, Kotecha said he and his co-accused are unfairly handled.
“We have been in Court since 2019. It’s so painful that we can’t do anything because we are on bail all this time,” he told Daily Pepper last Friday.
Efforts to reach out to Total Uganda Spokesman Marvin Kagoro were futile as his known telephone number was not available by the time of filing this report. He also never responded to the message over the matter.
Meanwhile, our sources told us that in order to save his business public image, Kotecha stepped aside from his role as the proprietor of Total Wampeewo as court proceedings take its toll, and the station is currently being managed by a close business associate and friend.