The High Court in Soroti has found James Israel Tukei, the former Bishop of Lifeline Ministries, guilty of theft. Justice Dr. Henry Peter Adonyo, the Senior Soroti Resident Judge delivered the verdict in his May 25, 2022 judgment, a copy of which our reporter has obtained.
“The responded is hereby found guilty of the offense of theft c/s 254 (1), (b) and 271 (b), (c) of the Penal Code Act Cap 120 and convicted accordingly. The acquittal of the respondent by the lower court is hereby set aside and is replaced by a conviction on the offense of theft”, the High Court ruling reads in part. Earlier, the Soroti Grade One Magistrate Emmanuel Pirimba had acquitted the prelate.
Bishop Tukei, now the founder of Light Resurrection Ministries is accused of theft of church property including the land title. His battle with Lifeline Ministries started in 2017 when Tukei tendered his resignation, which was followed by contention over the ownership of the property of Lifeline Ministries in Opiyai, Soroti City West Division.
Founded by Apostle Julius Peter Oyet in 1995, Lifeline Ministries opened both criminal and civil suits against Bishop Tukei and his faction. In 2018, the Soroti Chief Magistrates court dismissed a civil suit on grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter. Last year, the Soroti Grade One Magistrates court also acquitted Bishop Tukei of theft but Lifeline Ministries appealed the judgment.
On May 25, 2022, Justice Dr. Henry Peter Adonyo, the Senior Resident Judge in Soroti overturned the judgment of Grade One Magistrate Emmanuel Pirimba. Justice Adonyo issued criminal summons directing Bishop Tukei to appear for sentencing Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Soroti. He also ordered him to hand over the land title to Lifeline Ministries within a week.
On Thursday, Justice Adonyo postponed the sentencing of the prelate to June 10 after it emerged that Tukei used the land title under his custody as security for acquiring loans from Centenary Bank and Vision Fund.
URN saw a document where Bishop Tukei deposited the land title in Centenary Bank in exchange for a loan of 17million Shillings in 2013 and another with Vision Fund, for UGX 30M on September 9, 2016. Speaking to our reporter, Apostle Oyet said that the judge postponed the sentencing to June 10 to enable them to ascertain the condition of the land title that was returned by Tukei’s lawyer on Wednesday.
According to Apostle Oyet, Tukei joined Lifeline Ministries in 2002 in Kampala and was ordained Pastor in 2004, and posted to Soroti immediately. He adds that in 2006, the church in Soroti secured land in Opiyai whose title was processed in 2010.
By December 2015, Lifeline Ministries in Soroti had constructed church premises and the building was commissioned by the then Soroti Woman MP, Angeline Osege. All the developments in Soroti were spearheaded by Tukei, who according to sources in Soroti prompted him to claim ownership.
Bishop Tukei, who was present at Soroti court premises on Thursday, declined to comment when approached by our reporter. He was later seen consulting with a number of his followers who were present at court.