Uganda foreign minister Sam Kutesa with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Photo: Uganda ministry of foreign affairs
Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kutesa created a fake charity for the $500,000 bribe wired from New York to an account in Uganda, according to FBI agents involved in the case.
What’s more, even though the $500,000 was wired to an account provided by Kutesa’s wife, Edith Kutesa, on May 6, 2016, a website for the purported charity, with the unoriginal name, the Uganda Foundation, wasn’t registered until July 2016, according to an affidavit in the U.S. complaint signed by FBI Special Agent Thomas P. McNulty. When another FBI agent went to the address, in Kampala, Uganda, identified on a letterhead as the foundation’s headquarters, the agent found that no such charitable organization existed in the building.
Normally when people get a wire transfer of $500,000 they rush to send out a thank you note. Kutesa’s note, signed by the foreign minister himself, on the purported foundation’s letterhead, wasn’t sent until October 27, 2016, more than five months after the money was wired to Uganda; the letter was backdated to June 10, 2016, according to the FBI. This was presumably to make it closer to the date when the money was received. An Internet search by the FBI agent also didn’t show the existence of a foundation.
The details of the alleged scheme by the Kutesas to create the fake charity are outlined in a 54-page complaint filed by the Justice Department in the bribe-and-money-laudering case that has already led to the arrest in New York of two foreign nationals, Chinese businessman Chi Ping Patrick Ho, and Senegal’s former foreign minister Cheihk Tidiane Gadio.
Ho is the alleged paymaster, who coordinated a $2 million bribe offer to Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, on behalf of a Chinese energy company the U.S. Justice Department didn’t identify. The company was seeking favorable concessions in the oil and other energy industry in Chad, according to the U.S.
Gadio, who is a friend of President Deby, was the go-between person, and was paid $400,000 U.S. prosecutors allege. The unnamed company was also trying to help resolve a $1.2 billion fine imposed by Chad against another Chinese company it wanted to work with in Chad, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), for environmental damages. That fine was later reportedly reduced to $400 million. The “multi-billion dollar” company unnamed by U.S. prosecutors in the complaint has been identified in media accounts as Shanghai-based CEFC China Energy Company.
Ho himself operates an NGO, which is also affiliated with the United Nations, and is based in Virginia, U.S., and Hong Kong. He is a former Home Affairs Secretary in Hong Kong.
In Uganda, the Chinese company wanted concessions in the oil, hydro-power, other energy, and finance industries. The Kutesas also tried to get the company to acquire a bank in Uganda. Kutesa was paid $500,000, U.S. prosecutors allege.
Both the Kutesas met with Ho and CEFC executives in China in August 2015, when Kutesa was still President of the United Nations General Assembly. During that trip CEFC also made a commitment to support the re-election campaign of the Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni with a $500,000 donation, U.S. prosecutors allege, citing communications, including e-mail messages. The company also made the commitment to support the Kutesa’s non-existent charity.
While in China, the Kutesas were honored at a dinner and introduced to the chairman of CEFC, and other officials. Mrs. Kutesa was also interested in investments for her own company. She met with a Chinese company that offers mobile payment services. She wanted to “discuss the possibility of franchising their technology in Uganda or find any other arrangement for my company to use their system to provide e-ticketing to the transportation system,” she wrote, in one of the e-mail messages reviewed by the FBI.
In a Feb. 24, 2016, e-mail message Edith Kutesa informed Ho that Museveni had been re-elected. “We can now relax and reprogram the projects we discussed about with your Chairman when we were in Hong Kong last August,” she wrote and added that her husband, Kutesa “would like in particular to catch up with you regarding his foundation which he wishes to launch as soon as possible and would appreciate to receive the contribution/donation promised by the Chairman.”
Edith Kutesa then sent the wiring instructions for the bank account of the Ugandan Foundation.
Ho wrote back and congratulated Kutesa and Museveni for “the re-election” and offered a suggestion. “I think it would be a wonderful gesture if an invitation could be sent to the Chairman to be a VIP guest at the inaugural or similar ceremony when the President ascends into a new term, with a note of thanks to the Chairman for the support which he will then make good. This is only my personal suggestion to facilitate the exchange,” Ho wrote.
Ho discussed possible areas of investment interest in Uganda including in: oil blocks, an Energy Industrial Park — real estate, airport, refinery– roads, high speed rails, agriculture, tourism, rebuilding Uganda Airline, resort area by the lake with hotels, shopping centers, casino, recreation parks, and a China-Town which would boost tourism from China.
Ho also wrote to the Kutesas about forming a partnership with CEFC and the family businesses of the Kutesas and Museveni to acquire the African subsidiary of an international bank.
On Feb. 29, 2016, Edith Kutesa wrote with some urgency about the money, claiming that they wanted to support programs for young people. “Would it be possible for you to confirm the contribution to his Foundation so that he can launch it not so late after the campaign,” Edith Kutesa wrote, and copied her husband. “It was one of our commitment to job creation for youth in our constituency and as you know, youth are impatient.”
The Kutesas invited Ho and the Chinese company to Gen. Museveni’s May 2016 inauguration, following the elections that international observers say wasn’t free or credible and opponents claim he rigged.
When Ho accompanied CEFC executives for Museveni’s inauguration, they brought two “special gifts,” each for Kutesa and Museveni. Ho expressed concern to Edith Kutesa about customs regulations –with respect to the “gifts” — before traveling to Uganda. Mrs. Kutesa in an e-mail message assured Ho that she would meet them at the airport. U.S. prosecutors haven’t identified what the “gifts” to Kutesa and Museveni were. Edith Kutesa accompanied the 8-person delegation throughout their visit to Uganda.
Ye Jianming, the chairman of CEFC did not travel to Uganda but sent other company officials, according to the U.S. complaint. While in Uganda, the Chinese business delegation in addition to Museveni met other officials including at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development where discussions included oil exploration, bidding, oil pipeline construction, refinery, and distribution and development of the Ugandan oil industry.
According to U.S. prosecutors Kutesa didn’t waste time hatching the alleged money-making schemes once he arrived in New York City to take up his post at the United Nations. He began his one-year term in September 2014; by October, he was already holding regular meetings in his U.N. office, or at his residence, with Ho.
Ho was arrested in New York last Saturday and Gadio arrested Friday. Both face bribery and money-laundering charges.
Kutesa was reportedly in the U.S. during a meeting hosted Nov. 16-17 by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for African ministers of foreign affairs, and he’s even shown shaking Tillerson’s hand in a photograph available online. Yesterday, the State Department declined to comment on Kutesa’s visa status when contacted by The Black Star News and referred inquiries to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice said: “Visa/entry to the United States is handled by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security…” The spokesperson declined to comment on whether Kutesa is still under investigation.
Kutesa has been involved in several alleged corruption schemes, including one in which his private company in Uganda, ENHAS, made about $30 million from the United Nations; he had obtained the contract from the U.N. without revealing his ownership of ENHAS.
Kutesa was accused of involvement in embezzlement of millions of dollars in funds allocated for Uganda to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in 2007. In a January 13, 2010 memo to the State Department later published on WikiLeaks, former U.S. ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier disclosed that the U.K. government had considered visa sanctions against Kutesa over the alleged Chogm embezzlement. Lanier in part wrote: “The U.K. is considering visa restrictions for senior Ugandan officials guilty of misusing $27 million allocated to the November 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala. The British say their primary target is Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa….” The Lanier memo also added, “We regard Kutesa’s corruption as egregious….” and he noted that the U.K. authorities said they would ask for U.S. support.
Kutesa is one of Uganda’s most powerful ministers. His daughter Charlotte is married to Museveni’s son Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba who previously was commander of the Special Forces and presidential guard.