LONDON – A Ugandan court has acquitted former Uganda Airlines Chief Executive Officer Cornwell Muleya of a charge of disobedience.
Mr Muleya had stood accused of disobeying the Inspector General of Government (IGG) orders which requested him to appear in person before their office. The former airline boss had been requested to make a statement over corruption-related charges that were being investigated against him.
He had been called to produce documents to the IGG regarding mismanagement of public funds, procurements, and recruitment of staff at the Uganda Airlines.
Today however, presiding Magistrate Asuman Muhumuza dismissed the charge in Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court. He acquitted Mr Muleya on grounds that his failure to appear in person at the IGG’s office was excusable.
Mr Muleya had explained that at the time of the request, he was out of the country, and he presented travel documents and medical forms to support his claim.
The Magistrate noted that Mr Muleya had tendered his passport and air tickets in court as evidential proof that he travelled to South Africa on June 7 and returned on June 11. Then on the following day, he travelled to Dubai before returning on June 14.
Sometime afterwards he was admitted to Mulago hospital where he was advised to rest for 10 days.
The prosecution’s contention was that, in the period between May and June, Mr Muleya willfully and without reasonable justification, had refused to comply with a May 23 order of the IGG which demanded his personal attendance to give evidence.
Magistrate Muhumuza dismissed this, and expressed his surprise that the IGG had not taken Mr Muleya’s explanatory evidence into account, saying:
“I am surprised that the IGG did not find the same explanation compelling upon the arrest of the accused. I find that the accused failure to appear for the summons is not defiance as the prosecutor had put it but it was a just reasonable excuse.”
“For those reasons, the accused person is not found guilty and is acquitted.”
With respect to the former Uganda Airlines CEO’s intentions to answer questions at the requested interview with the Inspector General of Government, the magistrate noted that Mr Muleya had maintained that it had never his intention not to cooperate with the IGG.
He claimed that his failure to appear on June 1 was based upon the advice of his lawyers who had raised concerns about the email request that he had received, and wanted further clarity.