Blackmail!

EVIDENCE: Above Ministry of Defence identity card. Right, Michael Ezra Kato after his 1999 arrest.

Michael Ezra Kato’s past revealed

By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe

SECURITY agencies have renewed investigations into the case of a Kampala businessman, Michael Ezra Kato, who was arrested, charged and sentenced for blackmail, extortion and impersonating military intelligence (DMI) personnel in August 1999.

The impersonator was charged at Buganda Road Court on three counts of impersonation, contrary to section 360 of the Penal Code Act, demanding money by menaces contrary to section 279 of the Penal Code Act and forgery.

Michael Ezra Kato, then aged 30, pleaded guilty to all the offences and was given a concurrent sentence where he was to pay the fine for only the highest offence or face 12 months in prison.

He paid the money and survived jail after pleading with the magistrate.
According to court proceedings from Buganda Road Court, Michael Ezra Kato was from August 23, 1999 to March 7, 2000 accused of black mailing civilians in Kampala, posing as an intelligence officer and extorting huge sums of money from them.

The said businessman, also under the guise of working for the Directorate of Military Intelligence, forged a Ministry of Defence identity card no. RA1012.

Documents from security agencies indicate that he was arrested on August 12 in Kampala at Ekitobeero Restaurant and detained in Luzira Prison for some time until he was charged at Buganda Road Court on August 23.

Security sources say that they have picked interest in the case again after the man returned to the country, apparently with huge sums of money.

The 1999 charge sheet against him reads: Kato Ezra Michael alias Mulyowa, 30 years, of Bbunga, Kampala District, was charged with criminal offence number 1789 of 1999. He was charged that on 12/8/1999 at Kitobeero Restaurant, Nakasero, Kampala District, with intent to defraud Ramathan Makayu, falsely presented himself as an officer of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

Posing as an intelligence officer, he tried to extort $50,000 from Makayu.
Sunday Vision obtained the copy of the forged ID and the passport of one Catherine Kainza, who stood surety for Michael Ezra Kato as his wife.

Kato’s forged Ministry of Defence ID designated him as an intelligence officer of the 4th Division. The fake identity card was purportedly issued in October 1998 and given an open expiry date.

On August 23, 1999, Kato first appeared in Buganda Road Court to answer the charges, which he denied. He deposited his passport in court and was also required to report to the nearest police station every two weeks. His sureties each deposited sh1m. Her Worship Catherine Bamugemereire who handled the case signed the bond.

Kainza was a secretary in a company at Ntinda Industrial area, Plot 214, and a resident of Buziga, Ggaba Munyonyo. She deposited her passport number B165896. Loy Awat Obote, C EO, Parliament Avenue and a resident of Kizungu Zone in Makindye also stood surety for the accused.

Other documents indicate that on August 5, 1999, Kato forged a letter purportedly written by Col. Henry Tumukunde (above) who was the head of CMI then.

The letter, in which Kato addressed himself as the Special Presidential Agent, reads, “It has come to my notice that you have enough information regarding the above file and you have also made enough deployment on the above subject. I believe with all the information and statements on file now, it is high time we bring down the suspect.”
This letter precipitated Kato’s arrest by CMI operatives.

Eight months later, there was a major turnaround and Michael Ezra Kato pleaded guilty before the magistrate. He said, “I wish to change my pleas to that of guilty on each of the three offences brought against me.”

The charges were read to him again. He then said, “The facts are true and correct. But th e sum of money was much less than US$50,000.”

The prosecutor, Busutwa asked court to give the accused a very harsh sentence because such cases were becoming rampant and grave.

In mitigation, Kato said, “I was used by top military personnel and that is how I got the identity card. One Major Bwende used me, and am simply a scapegoat.”

He further pleaded, “I have an opportunity to go abroad for further studies. If am imprisoned, I will miss the opportunity.”

Court ruled that he should pay the fine. The magistrate said, “The accused seemed to plead guilty in order to keep out of an otherwise complicated situation involving top military intelligence officers. I also note that the accused is a young man, appears repentant and has decided to go for studies. Although the amount of money is not what is on the charge sheet, I hope that the accused tries to keep out of dangerous and complicated situations.”

He was awarded the right of appeal and his money and passport given back to him.
And Michael Ezra Kato was set free.

Published on: Sunday, 11th April, 2004

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