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Police Handwriting Expert Testifies in Mak Gold Case

Appearing before Beatrice Kainza, the City Hall Grade One Magistrate on Tuesday, Chelangat, who is also the last state witness said she had found significant similarities in the signatures on documents the accused used for receipting the money and their statements.
Stella Birungi Dindi, one of the suspects in the Makerere Gold scam happy upon receiving payment from businessman Soubhi Assi

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Sylvia Chelangat, a document analyst attached to the police forensic unit has testified in a case involving five suspected gold scammers.   

Appearing before Beatrice Kainza, the City Hall Grade One Magistrate on Tuesday, Chelangat, who is also the last state witness said she had found significant similarities in the signatures on documents the accused used for receipting the money and their statements. 

The signatures matched are for Nasser Kibirige, one of the suspects who acted as a lab technician at Makerere University’s Physical Chemistry Lab. 

He issued a document as a receipt invoice acknowledging receipt of US$700 approximately 2.6 million shillings for lab test for the 7 kilos of gold bars.  

Kibirige together with Stella Kalungi Dindi, David Kironde, Ronald Kamugisha and Yazidi Kabonge are accused of conning a 58-year-old Canadian businessman, Assi Soubhi of more than 600 million shillings.

They were arrested on January 10, 2018, inside the Makerere Chemistry Lab trying to conduct another fake gold test. They are facing five charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, obtaining money by false pretence, Criminal Trespass, impersonation and forgery.

  Chelangati told Court that she observed significant similarities between the acknowledgement note and the samples of other documents brought to her by the investigating officer.

    

According to Chelangat, the signatures were similar in design, initial beginning and ending, had connectivity of letters and were similar in shape, structure and fluency of eligibility.  

“My expert opinion to the findings, based on the on the observations made above, there is strong evidence to show that the author of the sample signatures is similar to the signature on the acknowledgement receipt,” she added.  

During the cross-examination, Humphrey Tumwesigye, the lawyer of the five accused asked her to explain how she managed to arrive at the said conclusion yet he was using the photocopy of the document. 

“How do you safeguard your work yet you said you relied on a photocopied document which is already a manipulation?” Counsel Tumwesigye asked Chelangat.

  In response, she told court that they use three methods in trying to analyse documents which included use of microscopes, magnifying glasses, VSC-5000 supported by visual observation method –the eye. 

“It may be a photocopy from a machine and remain as clear as an original. There is what we call first generation photocopy. In my examination, I did not establish any features of extra manipulation a part from a photocopy,” Chelangat said.

  “If a cut and paste photocopy was seen, I would have taken note of that in my observations using a VSC test,” she added.

When the lawyer asked whether she could attach the signature matched with the documents to any of the accused in the dock, Chelangat said her role was only to match handwriting and not people.    

“I only attach writings to writings and I can’t attach it to any of these people. I don’t know them,” she said.  

Upon conclusion on presentation of witnesses, Kainza asked both parties to present written submissions.  

However, due to the magnitude of the case and the bulk of documents advocate Tumwesigye requested for a month to file submissions on a no-case-to-answer. The suspects are seeking acquittal without having to present a defence.    

The magistrate has given both parties up to June 6th ahead of a ruling on July 4th.  

Businessman Assi Soubhi said he was impressed by the submission of the police forensic expert as she had stuck on the truth.  

He is hopeful that court will rule in his favour. He, however, says the period for submissions is too long which is putting more pressure on him in terms of expenses around Kampala.

  //Cue in: “All the witnesses on my side…

Cue out: …with those two months.”//

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