Cashgate convict Angella Katengeza Tuesday screamed in court as High Court Judge Fiona Mwale sentenced her to five years Imprisonment with Hard Labour.
Katengeza was, in March this year, found guilty and convicted of the offence of laundering government’s K105.9 million.
“From what I have said, six years would be an ideal sentence. But I deduct one year, after looking at the mitigating factors. Therefore, I sentence the convict to five years Imprisonment with Hard Labour,” Mwale said.
According to the judge, Katengeza started serving the sentence on March 14, 2016, the day she was convicted.
But as the judge was finishing reading the sentence, Katengeza yelled: “Just kill me. The Lord of Joseph, the Lord of Isaac, what have I done?”
Mwale, however, proceeded with what remained on the sentence, which she read for close to two hours.
“Should any party feel not satisfied with the sentence, it can appeal within 30 days,” Mwale said.
Coincidentally, as the judge started touching details of the sentence, a bird started chirping on one of the louvers on the courtroom’s window.
Like Katengeza’s screams, the bird’s sound muffled some of the words judge Mwale uttered.
When the court rose, Katengeza’s relatives and friends swarmed her in the dock, as they too failed to control their emotions, hugging her, with most of them sobbing.
Before the sentence was announced, Mwale went through a number of factors she considered. She said she looked at the mitigating factors, which Katengeza’s lawyer, Gilbert Khonyongwa, raised and the state’s response to them.
She, however, ruled out a non-custodial sentence.
“I have a strong doubt that a non-custodial sentence would be appropriate. The serious nature of the crime, and the absence of strong mitigating factors preclude me from giving a non-custodial sentence,” Mwale said.
She said looking at the offence, a fine may not be viewed positively by the general public. She, however, said Katengeza was not the worst offender to be given a maximum sentence of 10 years.
But on whether she should be given a suspended sentence, Mwale said mitigating factors had to be considered.
She critically analysed such factors as age, ill-health, family responsibilities, cooperation and assistance during trial, remorse, and previous good character.
On ill-health, she ruled out hypertension as a strong mitigating factor, but accepting Congestive Cardiac Failure (CCF) as a mitigating factor, saying she needed specialist treatment.
On cooperation and assistance to prosecution team, Mwale said the reason could have been strong if she had pleaded guilty. She argued that the plea of ‘not guilty’ by Kalonga and the arrest of former Accountant General David Kandoje had nothing to do with what Katengeza told the court.
As the judge was delivering her sentence, Mwale highlighted similarities and differences with Cashgate cases involving Oswald Lutepo, Maxwell Namata and Luke Kasamba, and Tressa Namathanga Senzani.
She said Senzani and Lutepo pleaded guilty. She also said Senzani paid back the K63 million while Lutepo also restituted some of the money in the K4.2 billion he is said to have laundered, while Namata and Kasamba paid back the K24 million they laundered before sentencing.
The matter, which has taken three years, started with three accused persons: Katengeza, her son Gordon Hamdan, and Leonard Kalonga.
Hamdan was dropped from the case, while Kalonga in August last year, pleaded guilty to all Cashgate charges levelled against him.
According to facts of the case, Kalonga cashed two cheques, one of K36, 530,900 and another of K69, 452,658 through Katengeza’s Faith Construction Company FDH Bank Account.
Khonyongwa said he would make a comprehensive comment later.
“As of now, I wouldn’t comment much until I go through it at my own time and determine my position on that,” he said.
He said appealing will depend on the instruction Katengeza will give him. Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) prosecutor Imran Saidi said the state was satisfied with the sentence.
“It is the court’s discretion when it comes to sentencing. There are a lot of circumstances that are taken into consideration. The sentence is still in order,” Saidi said.
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