The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala has confirmed charges of aggravated child trafficking against Portuguese national, Carlos Alberto De Almesia E Costa. He was dragged to court for marrying off an underage child. Justice Richard Wejuli Wabwire confirmed the two charges against Carlos after finding that the evidence brought by the Prosecution, led by Joseph Kyomuhendo during the pretrial hearing, sufficiently substantiates them.
According to the prosecution, between April 2020 and May 2020, at Busibante Zone in Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, Carlos received and harbored a sixteen-year-old primary six pupil of Kira Primary School. The prosecution claims that this was done by exploiting the victim’s vulnerable position or through the exchange of payments or benefits to the victim’s parents to gain their consent to exploit the victim. Carlos is also charged with maintaining and harboring the victim in a forced or child marriage.
The prosecution alleges that in August 2019, Carlos resided in Ntinda with his girlfriend Sharon. After their separation, Carlos moved to Najjera in April 2020, where he rented an apartment. It was there that he met the victim’s mother, who used to sell tea on the roadside with her daughters, and he became their regular customer. In late April, Carlos reportedly asked the victim’s mother to allow her daughter to go to his residence and wash his clothes. However, the mother suggested that Carlos bring the clothes to their home, where they would wash them and he could pick them up, as they had developed a friendship.
According to the records, Carlos visited their makeshift wooden home and considered it unsuitable for eating meals. As a result, he allegedly advised them to find another house at his expense. They later rented a two-bedroom house for 500,000 Shillings per month, where Carlos, the victim, her siblings, and the parents lived. The accused occupied one room with the victim while the parents occupied the other, and they shared the kitchen.
During their stay, it is alleged that Carlos would move from his bed to the victim’s bed at night, kissing her. When the victim’s younger sister left the room, Carlos allegedly began sexually abusing the victim. When the victim reported the matter to her mother, she advised her to talk to her father. However, when the father was informed, he remained silent. According to the evidence before the court, Carlos complained again about the size of the house and rented a three-bedroom house for one million Shillings. In this new house, each family member had their bed.
However, Carlos allegedly continued to complain about being isolated from the children, and as a solution, the parents allowed him to share a bed with the children, where he continued to abuse the victim. It is also alleged that Carlos took the victim to Jinja one day and showed her explicit videos. When the victim refused to engage in sexual activities with Carlos, the matter was reported to the police, and Carlos locked the rest of the family members outside the house.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Carlos had written an agreement, which the victim’s parents signed. The agreement stated that he would marry the victim and pay the bride price of a house and a car within two years. State Attorney Kyomuhendo said during the hearing, that he intends to present evidence including condoms and electronic gadgets, and Carlos’ mobile phone, which he allegedly smashed but was later recovered and submitted to the Government Analytical Laboratory for analysis.
On his part, Carlos through his lawyer countered the prosecution’s assertions by arguing that the evidence disclosed by the Prosecution does not substantiate the claim that the accused persons received or harbored the victim. The lawyer said his client didn’t harbor the victim nor did he harbor her but both the victim’s family and the accused were living together in the same apartment. According to the defense, it was a voluntary decision by the entire family of the victim to reside in the same premises as the accused, and therefore the living arrangement was not solely orchestrated by the accused to harbor or receive the victim but rather a collective decision made by the victim’s family.
Justice Wabwire ruled that given the statement of the victim where she detailed three instances of alleged sexual intercourse with Carlos, as well as her parents and the medical reports, the court has found substantial grounds to believe that the accused engaged in the act of sexual exploitation as alleged. According to the Judge, he agrees with the Prosecution that the accused allegedly employed tactics involving fraud, deception, and abuse of power or position concerning the victim and her family.
“Referring to the victim’s statement, she detailed instances of being in the same room as the accused, where he engaged in sexual intercourse against her will. Given the fact that the victim is a child, her experience of being compelled to live in a marital context against her will aligns with the definitions of forced and child marriage. Consequently, the charges under count 2 are confirmed against the accused,’ said Wabwire.
He has added that considering these facts, “I find that the Prosecution has successfully established this aspect of the case, illustrating the accused’s abuse of financial power over the victim’s family and his exploitation of the victim.” Wabwire went ahead to confirm the charges and referred the accused person to face trial before the designated trial panel which will be determined by the Head of International Crimes Division. Carlos has since applied for bail, but his bail application is yet to be heard. He has now been returned to Luzira prison pending when the panel to hear his case will be constituted.