The Supreme Court in Kampala has reinstated the 20-year jail sentences handed to two men by the Anti-Corruption Court for hacking into tax body URA’s system to defraud shs2.4 billion.
In 2012,Nsubuga Guster and Byamukama Robinhood were arrested by URA after an internal investigation indicated that their online platform had been hacked into to access the tax body’s Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a computerized customs management system that covers most foreign trade procedures.
The system handles manifests and customs declarations, transit and accounting procedures.
The group ensured that more than 150 cars had got number plates but none had paid taxes in the banks whereas the bank receipts that URA had based on to clear the vehicles were also forged by the group.
In 2013, they were arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court that later convicted them on counts of unauthorized use and interception of computer services contrary to sections 15(1) and 20, electronic fraud contrary to section 19, and unauthorized access to data contrary to section 12(2) .
The two men were also convicted on counts of producing, selling, or procuring, designing, and being in possession of devices, computers, computer programs designed to overcome security measures for the protection of data contrary to section 12(3) and 20 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011.
Consequently, they were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each but also to a fine of $4500 each.
However, the group appealed against the conviction at the Court of Appeal and the court ordered for their retrial after it was found out that they had been tried without pleading to the amended indictment and consequently occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
However, dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal judgment, tax body URA ran to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of URA as it reinstated the 20 year jail sentences for each of the two men after reasoning with the tax body that the guidelines for plea taking had not been breached and that therefore, there was no miscarriage of justice.
“The amendment of the indictment ( by the Anti-Corruption Court) did not alter the facts or dates in material particulars and it would be a travesty of justice to declare the entire trial a nullity based simply on an amendment,” the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
“The amendment relating to the amount was not a fundamental amendment. The fundamental allegation is that the respondents caused financial loss. The question of amount is a detail that can be adjusted and reconciled at any point.”
The highest court in the land consequently ruled that there was no miscarriage of justice by the Anti-Corruption Court that charged the duo in 2012 and consequently cancelled the bail handed to Nsubuga Guster and Byamukama Robinhood by the Court of Appeal pending their appeal.
The Supreme Court also reinstated the 20 years jail terms for each of the two men after each was sentenced to 12 and eight years for each of the two counts and the two sentences to run concurrently.
However, court deducted the years they spent on remand and consequently, the duo that had been released on bail pending the appeal had been returned to prison and is to spend 10 years in prison.
Patience Rubagumya Commissioner Legal at URA, George Okello Assistant Commissioner Litigation and Hilda Bakanasa Manager litigation represented the State whereas Evans Ochieng represented the convicts during the case at Supreme Court.