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Royal Mabati boss faces five-year jail term after failing to refund sh4.5m

by Editorial Team
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By Edward Anyoli

The country operations manager of Royal Mabati Limited, Esther Wajungu, who is facing charges of obtaining money by false pretence, has not refunded sh4.8m she allegedly obtained from a city marketer.   

In 2022, Wajungu committed herself before court to repay the sh4.48m that she reportedly took from Mercilius Opio.  

According to an agreement signed on November 15, 2022, between Opio and Wajungu, it was agreed that she would pay the money in two instalments.  

The first instalment of sh2.5m would be paid before December 5, 2022, and the second instalment of sh1.9m would be paid before January 15, 2023.  

However, according to court records, it has emerged that Wajungu did not honour the agreement.

The agreement that was signed before the chief magistrate states that the money shall be deposited at Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court at the cashier’s office and a receipt would be issued.  

Also, it was agreed between the two parties that in the event that Wajungu fails to comply with the agreement, legal action would be taken against her.  

Wajungu, 43, first appeared before the Nakawa court senior principal magistrate, Esther Nahirya, on November 9 2022, but she denied the charges.  

It is alleged that Wajungu and others not yet arrested, on November 4, 2020, at Royal Mabati Limited on Jinja Road in Kampala, obtained sh4.48m from Mercilius Opio, a marketer. 

Prosecution said Wajungu pretended that she would sell iron sheets to Opio, but she did not deliver the said iron sheets.  

According to the prosecution, Opio has been paying Royal Mabati Limited for the iron sheets  in instalments since 2020.  

Prosecution added that upon completion of the required amount of sh4,485,000 to Royal Mabati Limited, Opio requested to pick his iron sheets. However, Opio was instead told that he had no iron sheets to claim from the company.  

According to prosecution, Opio told the Police that Wajungu and her colleagues sent him away when he asked for a refund of his money. 

Prosecution added that several attempts were made by Opio where he pleaded with the management of Royal Mabati Limited to refund his money, but his demands were disregarded.  

Magistrate Nahirya on November 9, remanded Wajungu to prison after she failed to present substantial sureties to stand for her. A surety is a person who gives a guarantee to court that the accused person will turn up for his or her trial if released on bail. He accepts the responsibility to pay a fixed sum of money to government if the accused does not re-appear in court.   

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), which is mandated under the Constitution of Uganda to prosecute cases, was not represented in court when Wajungu was being charged in November 9, 2022. 

Five-year jail term

Wajungu was charged under Section 305 of the Penal Code Act. If convicted, Wajungu is liable to a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.  

Section 305 of the Penal Code Act states; “Any person who by any false pretence, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, commits a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years.”   

Royal Mabati Limited is a multinational company that primarily deals with roofing materials. It started out in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2005 before it opened up business in Kampala in 2017.

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