Uganda’s two top crooks–Kutesa and Gen. Museveni. Photo: United Nations
In 2018, a U.S. Federal Court in Manhattan finally confirmed to the world what most Ugandans knew–that dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni and his in-law Sam Kutesa are crooks, after a jury convicted a Hong Kong businessman of paying them bribe money totaling $1 million and offering each a private joint-venture deal on behalf of a Chinese company seeking oil and other concessions.
The Museveni-Kutesa duo perhaps make up the most corrupt political pair ruling an African country. Kutesa himself has been linked to numerous corruption scandals in the past. The United Kingdom once considered revoking his visa privileges after he was involved in the theft of millions of dollars in public funds when Uganda organized the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm).
While Museveni-Kutesa were hosting Queen Elizabeth at the conference, tens of millions of dollars was being stolen. Kutesa’s also been linked to bribe payments of millions of dollars from Tullow oil company and to stripping the assets of Uganda Airlines, causing the national carrier to collapse.
Kutesa is Uganda’s minister of foreign affairs. This is a prestigious position that he’s used as a cover for decades to embezzle millions of dollars in public funds or to solicit bribe money from international corporations seeking business interests in Uganda. A more appropriate title would be Minister for Kutesa’s and Museveni’s Business Interests; or Minister of Embezzlement.
Presumably, Gen. Museveni protects Kutesa because the ill-gotten wealth benefits the family. This makes the duo co-conspirators. If Gen. Museveni was not part of the enterprise he would have fired his thieving foreign minister a long time ago. Museveni’s son Muhoozi Kaenerugaba, who’s in charge of the notorious Special Forces Unit (SFU) of the armed forces, is married to Kutesa’s daughter Charlotte.
The Kutesa-Museveni duo simply ignored links to several corruption scandals through the decades in Uganda even after they were exposed in local media. At home, the duo can create and direct phantom “legal” proceedings that always results in Kutesa being “exonerated.”
However, due to Kutesa’s insatiable greed for money –even after amassing millions through the years– the duo got ensnared in a case that was tried in U.S. Federal Court where Museveni could not control or direct the outcome. So, on December 5, 2018, after a trial lasting a week and two days, Chi Ping Patrick Ho, who was working as an agent for a multi-billion dollar company, CEFC China Energy Co., that wanted non-competitive business deals in Uganda was convicted of bribing Kutesa and Museveni $500,000 each.
The jury heard evidence that Kutesa’s bribe was wired to a Stanbic Bank account in Uganda that he and his wife Edith had opened for a phantom “charity.” Kutesa’s bribe money was first wired on May 6, 2016 from a CEFC China Energy account in HSBC Bank in Hong Kong to an HSBC account in New York controlled by CEFC NGO, a U.S.-based phony “charity” created and headed by Ho to curry favor with dignitaries such as Kutesa. From New York, the money was wired via Deutsche Bank, also on May 6, 2016 to the Kutesas’ account in Uganda. In return for the bribe, Kutesa set up meetings to discuss business deals for CEFC China Energy with Museveni and other senior Uganda officials. At the trial jurors were shown evidence that Kutesa had boasted to Ho as early as October 2014 about his family ties with Museveni. After the bribe payment to Kutesa, Gen. Museveni –as Ho requested in writing– then invited Ye Jianming, Chairman of CEFC China, to his May 12, 2016 inauguration after he stole the election from Dr. Kizza Besigye.
Jianming ended up not traveling to Uganda so Ho led the CEFC delegation which flew to Entebbe on May 10, 2016, on a Gulf Stream jet. Also aboard the private jet, jurors heard, was $500,000 in cash, wrapped up as a “nice gift” for Gen. Museveni which Ho delivered on behalf of CEFC Energy.
In Uganda Ho and the CEFC delegation discussed with Museveni and other Ugandan officials inking deals in the oil, hydro-energy, infrastructure, banking and finance, and tourism sectors. The delegation also discussed linking the Ugandan Shilling to the Chinese currency the Renminbi. The jury also heard that Museveni was willing to revoke bids that had already been awarded in oil blocks to accomodate CEFC China’s needs. CEFC also offered a profit-sharing joint-venture arrangement in Uganda with businesses controlled by the families of Museveni and Kutesa, which is where the real money for the duo was to come from. The $1 million bribe was just to wet their mouths.
Ho’s conviction was covered by multiple media outlets including CNN, France24, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Black Star News, The South China Morning Post, Court House News, The Observer, The Daily Monitor, and others.
How did Patrick Ho, Museveni, Kutesa and other African officials in the corruption scheme end up in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Justice?
Kutesa was elected President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA) in 2014 after he survived a petition campaign to mobilize opposition to his candidacy that won more than 15,000 signatures. Yet Kutesas’ was a pyrrhic victory since his tenure also unraveled his and his boss Museveni’s corruption.
Just before Kutesa was elected to the PGA post The Black Star News published an expose of his involvement in the theft of about $30 million from the U.N. Kutesa’s company, Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) had billed the U.N. millions of dollars over a period of over five years for purported U.N.-related work at Entebbe Airport. Kutesa had never informed the U.N. of his ownership of ENHAS when his company bid for the contract. He never would have won the contract since it was a clear conflict of interest case. It’s the equivalence of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concealing his ownership of a private company that wins a multi-million dollar U.N. contract. Pompeo would lose his job and be subjected to criminal prosecution.
In Kutesa’s case, the U.N. itself, under Ban Ki-Moon’s leadership, became criminally involved by covering up for Kutesa. The links to the invoices totaling nearly $30 million discovered by The Black Star News were all deleted from the U.N.’s website. U.N. spokespersons were also either evasive or outright deceptive about Kutesa’s fraudulent ENHAS billings. Even to this day, it’s unclear whether ENHAS is still a vendor since the U.N. has ignored questions about the company’s status.
At the time of the expose The Black Star News also reached out to the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Justice for comment about the ENHAS billings. After all, the U.S. contributes more than 25% of the U.N.’s budget; therefore, a portion of any monies stolen by Kutesa belongs to U.S. taxpayers.
There were no official responses to the inquiries from The Black Star News. However, the U.S. Justice Department had clearly taken an interest in Kutesa’s activities. The U.S. government received court-approval to monitor Kutesa’s communications. Part of the voluminous evidence produced by prosecutors at trial show that phone calls and e-mail messages between Ho and Sam and Edith Kutesa and several other officials were monitored by the F.B.I. as far back as September, 2014, when Kutesa became PGA.
Back in Uganda, after Patrick Ho’s December 5 conviction, Museveni and Kutesa never issued an official statement or even denial about the $500,000 bribe each received.
Attempting to spin the story, after a reporter asked him about the Kutesa bribe –possibly a planted question since the reporter never asked about the bribe payment to the dictator himself– Museveni said Kutesa told him the money wired to the foreign minister had been a “donation” for a “charity.” Yet, no charity existed; and the Kutesa’s, and Uganda’s Attorney General, purportedly tasked to investigate the matter, have not produced bank records to show how the monies were disbursed from the Stanbic account. Presumably Kutesa and his associates could try to cook up “documentation.”
The bigger story in Gen. Museveni’s response is that at the time, and even up till now, he’s never said a word about the $500,000 cash bribe Ho was convicted of paying to him. Museveni has not denied receiving the bribe and he has not been directly asked about it by a Ugandan journalist.
Earlier, as part of the corruption coverup, non other than Ms. Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio herself, the Chairperson of Transparency International (TI) handed to Museveni in Kampala a trophy to honor “his role” in fighting corruption. The ceremony was on December 5, 2018, the very day Ho was convicted. Is it possible that Ms. Rubio is so clueless that she was unaware of the federal court trial in New York City or the numerous corruption cases in which the Museveni regime has been implicated? Instead of resigning her post and rescinding the shameful award which has undermined TI’s reputation the organization issued a verbal-gymnastic press release basically saying the honor given to Museveni wasn’t TI’s most prestigious one. Ms. Rubio and those involved in the decision to honor –and enable– the corrupt and brutal dictator now 32 years in power must all be fired. Otherwise why should anyone not doubt Transparency’s own credibility?
Kutesa’s and Museveni’s troubles with the U.S. may not be over. There is an organization in Washington, D.C., making inquiries about the $30 million that Kutesa and ENHAS billed the U.N.
However, that is a story for 2019.