Swiss businessman, Ugandan girlfriend summoned over $5m land fraud

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Hoima, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The High Court in Hoima has issued a summons to Swiss businessman David Ferdinand Heimhofer and his Ugandan girlfriend, Mariam Kajumba, requiring them to provide a defense against allegations of placing an illegal caveat on land owned by Testimony Motors Uganda.

The land, valued at $5 million USD (UGX 19.2 billion), encompasses Block 5 plot 633 and 633 St Kayera in Buganda Hoima District.

In a petition dated February 9th, 2024, Testimony Motors Uganda, represented by its legal counsel from Muwema and Company Advocates, has identified David Kajumba, Terra Sola Energy Company Limited (allegedly utilized by Mr. David Ferdinand Heimhofer and Mariam Kajumba), and the Commissioner of Land Registration as respondents in the case.

The company seeks a court order declaring that the respondents have no legitimate interest in the land and compelling them to vacate.

The Passport of the Swiss businessman David Ferdinand Heimhofer. COURTESY PHOTO/URN

Additionally, Testimony Motors Uganda is pursuing a court order holding Ferdinand Heimhofer and Kajumba personally responsible for the lodgement of the caveat and the resulting losses and damages incurred by the company. Compensation for the contested caveat is also being sought.

According to court records, Testimony Motors Uganda is the registered proprietor of the land, measuring 499.7 hectares. In August 2022, lawyer Accram Luzinda and land agent Jim Kibira approached Medad Osborn Twesigye, the Director of Testimony Motors Uganda, expressing interest in purchasing the land from David and Kajumba.

A meeting at Fairway Hotel in Kampala confirmed their intention to buy the land for a solar power project in collaboration with the Ugandan government.

Following a survey and the incorporation of Terra Sola Energy Limited, the company tasked with executing the project and acquiring the land, Twesigye signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on October 22nd, 2022, agreeing to purchase the land for $5 million USD.

The legal dispute now centers on the alleged illegal caveat placed on the land by Heimhofer and Kajumba, prompting the legal action taken by Testimony Motors Uganda.

“The said MoU was agreed to remain valid for 10 months. However, an extension of 2 months was allowed if the defendants needed it. The purpose of the 2 months provided was to enable the defendants to carry out a feasibility study to determine the suitability of the suit land for the solar power project,” reads the documents in part.

Subsequently, documents reveal that the defendants were obligated to make a payment of $100,000 USD within ten days, as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). However, this payment was not fulfilled.

On December 1st, 2022, Mariam Kajumba lodged a caveat with the apparent intention of altering the proprietorship or initiating transactions related to the land.

According to records, on March 3rd, 2023, Testimony Motors Uganda, represented by its then legal counsel T_David Wesley and Company Advocates, addressed a letter to Ferdinand Heimhofer and Mariam Kajumba, expressing concern about the outstanding payment and the caveat lodged without adherence to the payment terms.

In response, David Kajumba reportedly acknowledged delays in signing the implementation agreement with the government but asserted that the caveat was a protective measure for their investment in the project studies conducted on the contested land.

In a letter dated March 8th, 2023, David Kajumba indicated plans to instruct local engineers to conduct further studies, identify grid capacity in Hoima, and secure government approval for the study to trigger the payment of the outstanding $100,000 USD.

However, despite these assurances, no payment materialized. Testimony Motors Uganda continued its efforts to persuade David Mariam Kajumba via WhatsApp to lift the caveat, but the respondents remained unyielding.

On May 17th, 2023, Testimony Motors Uganda enlisted the services of Muwema and Company Advocates to formally demand the removal of the caveat. In response, on May 22nd, 2023, the respondents, through their legal representatives at M/S Wamimbi Advocates and Solicitors, asserted that the caveat was essential to protect “its interest and money expended so far.”

This marks the progression of the legal dispute, with Testimony Motors Uganda seeking redress for non-compliance with the payment terms and the contested caveat lodged by the defendants.

“The said defendant’s lawyers also indicated that they were amenable to a harmonious settlement of the matter but all efforts to contact them or their principals for a negotiated settlement of the matter were futile,” adds the document.

On December 2023, Testimony Motors Uganda obtained a serious investor from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who was interested in purchasing the suit land for a sugar project. Testimony Motors Uganda Company Director Twesigye once again got in touch with Ferdinand Heimhofer and Mariam Kajumba to remove a caveat but he was ignored.

Records also indicate that when Twesigye did due diligence on Terra Sola Energy Limited, it was established that it had a paltry share capital of only 10 million shillings with no registered office or asset in Uganda.

“The plaintiff established the 1st Defendant/David doesn’t conduct any business in Uganda and the 1st and 2nd Defendants are using its veil of corporate personality as a mask to defraud the plaintiff,” reads the documents.

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Documents also indicate that an investigation revealed that the 1st and 2nd Defendants exert significant influence over Solar Energy Limited, the entity responsible for placing the caveat on the land.

Testimony Motors Uganda asserts that during the upcoming court proceedings, they will contend that the defendants, individually or collectively, did not acquire any legal or equitable interest in the disputed land as per the terms outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The Court has granted the respondents a 15-day window following the service of the court summons to file their defense against the allegations. Subsequently, the case will be assigned to a Judge, who will then schedule it for a hearing.

This procedural step allows both parties to present their arguments and evidence before the court, ensuring a fair and thorough examination of the matter.