The Monitor (Kampala)
7 September 2008
Posted to the web 8 September 2008
Inside Politics Team
Lawyers representing a Korean national, Lee Sung Ho, in a case of drug possession have written to the Minister of Internal Affairs Dr Ruhakana Rugunda saying he is a subject of a deliberate frame by his former employer, the fish and furniture tycoon Kim Sung Hwan, who is also the Korean Consul in Uganda.
The case which has been brought to the notice of Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura once again throws the spotlight on the little known world of foreign communities doing business in Uganda.
In April 2006, Daily Monitor broke a story of violent feuding between rival Pakistani car dealers which had entangled the Immigration Department and the Uganda Police Force, "Women, Guns split investor community (April 29, 2006).
In this case witnesses to a possible shooting crime were hurriedly deported as powerful investors played puppet master with Uganda's weak criminal justice institutions.
In an interview with Dr Rugunda, who intervened then, he admitted that Uganda was struggling with the challenge of policing its borders and ensuring compliance with the law for both foreigners and locals.
Little attention is paid however to monied foreign businesses and their ability to influence the enforcement of the law in Uganda or politicians in positions to help them.
Once in awhile, the issue re-merges when conflict flares within the foreign communities themselves. Policy makers often focus on the vulnerability of the police force to political influence.
Now if Mr Lee, who has documented his case, is to be believed his detractors, using bribes, are manipulating the police, a public prosecutor and possibly even the Magistrate handling his case. The key to understanding his plight, he says, is business rivalry.
Lee, who Sunday Monitor has interviewed, says his decision to leave Hwang Sung furniture and set up his own furniture business in competition with his former boss is responsible for his current predicament.
More serious are allegations of bribe taking he is making against public officers he claims are being primed to deport him. He has turned transcripts of phone conversations and SMS records to the police and says he and his family live in constant fear now.
"He (Kim Sung) warned me not to return to Uganda and if I do, not to enter the same business. But Uganda is not his kingdom," says Lee of Mr Sung. Mr Sung however, in a brief phone call, says he does not want to discuss the matter adding that Lee had apologised in the past and calling him "crazy."
In the letter Mr Lee's lawyers, Kawenja, Othieno & Co Advocates, wrote to Dr Rugunda and copied to the Immigration Department, their client was a victim of a set up when one Phillip Mawanda planted heroine in his car. Subsequently Lee was arrested and is currently on trial (Criminal Case No. 638 of 2008, Uganda Vs Lee). They claim to have established that Mr Mawanda is a security operative who has been in contact with agents of Lee's former employers. Subsequently they say a second case was filed by the Vice Chairman of Hwang Sung of fraud against Mr Lee.
Above all Mr Lee says that his evidence of collusion against him is compelling enough and has now offered to come forward with information about Hwang Sung's tax performance - a veiled threat against the company he once worked for.
Mr Lee has his day in court but his allegations suggest more to the case than meets the eye and once again how vulnerable law enforcement is when it confronts powerful commercial and political interests in Uganda.
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