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South African Jailed 30 Years For Kidnapping Zimbabwean In Uganda

Joachim Ugochukwu Onyeako, a South African citizen, has received a 30-year prison sentence for kidnapping a Zimbabwean individual with the aim of extorting a ransom.

The sentencing was delivered by a panel of three Court of Appeal justices, including deputy chief justice Richard Buteera, Christopher Gashirabake, and Oscar Kihiika. They determined that the kidnapping of Ross Robert James was meticulously planned and executed in Uganda by an international criminal network that included Onyeako.

According to court documents, the victim received an enticing email on July 21, 2013, offering an investment opportunity to assist Luciana Ford in relocating a $20 million family fortune from Zimbabwe to Australia. Subsequent communications led to the victim exchanging phone numbers with the email’s author, Michael Oweni, who claimed to be Ford’s attorney.

After multiple exchanges, Oweni invited the victim to Uganda to finalize the deal, citing safety concerns in Zimbabwe. Upon arrival at Entebbe airport, the victim was met by David Onyedeke and taken to a location in Seguku, where Onyeako and Sam Iyke ordered him to comply with their demands under threat.

The victim was presented with a file indicating he was held hostage until a €650,000 ransom was paid. Despite only obtaining €10,000, the accused were arrested after escorting the victim back to the airport.

While others pleaded guilty, Onyeako’s plea bargain attempt failed, leading to a full trial where he was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years by Justice Lydia Mugambe. Dissatisfied, he appealed, alleging trial irregularities.

The Court of Appeal in Kampala found flaws in the initial sentencing and imposed a 30-year sentence for count one and 10 years for count two, deducting time served on remand. The sentences are to be served consecutively, starting from November 16, 2021.

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