The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has discontinued money laundering charges against Human rights activist Nicholas Opiyo days after High court Judge Lawrence Gidudu gave government an ultimatum of seven days to complete investigations or have charges terminated.
“This is to inform Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue proceedings against Opiyo Nicholas, charged with Money laundering Contrary to section 3 (c) 116 and 136 (1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act as amended,” a withdraw form lodged in the Anti-Corruption Court by the DPP Jane Frances Abodo read.
On learning about the lose of interest in the case by the DPP, the Principal Magistrate Grade one at the Buganda Road Court Moses Nabende, ordered that proceedings against Opiyo be discontinued.
“It’s hereby ordered that proceedings against the accused person, (Opiyo Nicholas) charged with money laundering, are discontinued by virtue of the withdraw form serial no. 1547 dated September 10. The accused person (Mr Opiyo) is discharged accordingly,” he ordered.
Nabende also, ordered Opiyo, be refunded his UGX 15Million cash bail deposit.
“It is hereby ordered that Cash bail deposit of Shs 15, 000,000 (fifteen Million Uganda Shillings only) by Opiyo Nicholas Vide General Receipt NO Y2179602 dated 30/12/2020 be refunded,” Nabende ordered.
Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, was arrested in December 2020 and subsequently, charged with money laundering.
Prosecution alleged that Opiyo on October 8, 2020 at Absa Bank, Garden City Branch, in Kampala acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2b) in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, which was to facilitate criminality.
However, Opiyo through his lawyers in January complained to court that the prosecution was merely updating the court of how investigations into his case are ever in progress without being concluded.
He told court that he took a plea in December 2020 and was released on bail but the hearing of the case has never commenced.
He contended that the delay to prosecute his case infringed on his right to a fair and speedy trial provided in Article 28 (1) of the Constitution.
Last week, Justice Gidudu gave the last caution to the prosecution arguing that suspects should be accorded a fair and speedy trial.
“The court is mandated to balance the right of the State to prosecute offenders to punish crime in society with the right of an accused to have a fair, speedy and public trial before an impartial court. Consequently, I make the following orders to dispose of this application,” held Justice Gidudu.
He gave the DPP seven days (before the closure of business on September15,2021) to commit the applicant (Opiyo) for trial before the High Court and disclose its case to the accused.
The judge further warned that should the DPP fail to commit Opiyo to the High Court for trial, his case shall be terminated.
“If after September 15, the applicant (Mr Opiyo) has not been committed for trial to the High Court, then the prosecution of the applicant in criminal case 106 of 2020 shall stand terminated under section 17 (2) of the Judicature Act,” Justice Gidudu further ordered.
After the formal withdraw, the counsel for the accused David FK Mpanga said his client is a free man.
“It is now a formal order of Court. Nicholas Opiyo is a free man.” He said.