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MTN takes $3.7m battle back to Three Ways Ltd

MTN Uganda has lined up a list of 12 witnesses to beef up its court case as it tries to recover $3.7 million that the telecom giant says Three Ways Shipping Services Limited defrauded from it.

In a fresh lawsuit, filed at the commercial division of the High Court on Monday, MTN says Three Ways received $3.7m “for services not provided.” MTN contracted Three Ways in 2004 to offer a variety of services such as clearing and forwarding. In its suit, MTN argues that Three Ways raised a “total of 134 invoices against the plaintiff (MTN) for various assorted services which were purportedly provided and/or goods purportedly procured and supplied to the plaintiff, while in fact no goods were in fact supplied and no services were ever provided.”

MTN intends to present a list of invoices of goods that were purportedly imported into the country but had no customs stamps as is required by law. Among the witnesses MTN intends to use are: the manager of Huawei, the company it quotes extensively in its lawsuit,. which purportedly supplied products that never got to the telecom firm’s premises; officials from Eagle Logistics, whose name has come up frequently for purportedly providing transport services.

Two sets of lawyers, Kampala Associate Advocates and Sebalu and Lule Advocates, will represent MTN. MTN’s lawsuit comes almost a month after the High court’s Justice Christopher Madrama Izama had threw out a related case in favour of Three Ways. The genesis of this case dates back as early as 2009. MTN discovered forged invoices, written between 2009 and 2012, which pointed to collusion between some of its staff and managers at Three Ways.

MTN reported the case at the Police, the High court and at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. In MTN’s favour, the Anticorruption division of the High court asked Stanbic bank and Standard Chartered bank to freeze all accounts of Three Ways. The banks went ahead and froze the accounts, leaving Three Ways in the cold.

However, on September 10, 2012, in trying to settle the case out of court, MTN signed a memorandum of understanding with Three Ways. The MOU directed Three Ways to pay MTN $4m in six months. Three Ways’ officials were also to testify against those MTN officials colluded with to steal the money. On their part, MTN officials agreed they would try and convince the DPP and police to have Three Ways bank accounts unfrozen.

Two and a half weeks later, in late September 2012, the bank accounts became operational again. Justice Madrama ruled that “the MOU was to assist and promote the prosecution of the culprits who were already charged,” which lawsuit rendered MTN’s case to recover the money null and void. In any case, the Three Ways officials argued that they had signed the MOU under duress.

Now MTN says it has all the evidence to pin Three Ways, together with its former staff, Naphtal Were and John Paul Basabose, who are thought to have been accomplices in the fraudulent transactions. Three Ways has two weeks to file a counter claim.

mugalu@observer.ug

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