Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) legal team has won another precedent setting victory in highest court in the land against Rock Petroleum (U) Ltd, and the lawyers that had represented it.
It should be noted that in 2009, the Rock Petroleum sued URA in the High Court, to recover excise duty collected in excess.
Court ordered URA to refund about Shs48bn to Rock Petroleum and other dealers in petroleum products (about 56 in number).
Thereafter, the lawyers who represented Rock Petroleum attempted to attach 16% of the refund amounts, in the hands of URA, before the companies/beneficiaries could receive.
This was successfully challenged by the beneficiaries, up to the Supreme Court.
By then, (Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates) had already taken about Shs4.7bn from the URA bank account. The Supreme Court ordered URA to still pay the companies, and recover from the lawyers.
In the meantime, these very lawyers went back to the High Court, to tax the costs of a successful representation of the excise duty refund case against URA.
They were awarded Shs5.8bn in costs (instruction fees).
URA appealed and the Court of Appeal reduced it to Shs3 Million. In addition, the Court ordered that the amount that had earlier been taken by the advocates (16%) off the URA bank accounts (Shs4.7bn) be refunded.
The lawyers were dissatisfied and appealed to the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous Judgment given on 6th November 2018, and the first of its kind in Uganda, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the Court of Appeal decision.
“The Taxpayers are saved from paying Shs5.8bn in costs to the private advocates. URA is entitled to a refund of approximately Shs4.7bn illegally taken by the said advocates, purported as 16% of the excise duty refund due to the beneficiaries, but which the lawyers had attached as professional legal fees due from the beneficiaries (Supreme Court had earlier held that those beneficiaries were not liable to pay the advocates),” Ian Rumanyika (in featured photo), the Acting Assistant Commissioner, Public and Corporate Affairs at URA, said.
He added: “The case will foster discipline among legal practitioners who wish to use illegal means to earn excessive professional fees. The case is a big contribution by the URA team to the growth and development of jurisprudence in the country and the region at large.”