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Kutesa in Paradise

Sam Kutesa

Foreign Minister fingered in dodgy deal in Seychelles

Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Days after it emerged that Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa set up a company in a tax haven, the move continues to be scrutinised.

Apparently, in 2012 Kutesa hired Appleby, a company renowned for creating offshore account for the rich and powerful, to form a company for him in the Seychelles.

Kutesa created two companies; one was named `Obuyonza Discretionary Trust’ and it held shares in the second company called Katonga Investments Ltd.

They were to handle dealings of Entebbe Handling Services (Enhas), the Entebbe ground handling business that he acquired controversially in the 1990s.

Kutesa watched over the administration over Obuyonza Discretionary Trust’ and was one of its beneficiaries. His daughter, Ishta, is listed as a beneficial owner and future recipient of money from the Trust.

The deal was recently exposed in the so-called `Paradise Papers’, as a result of a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the most powerful people and companies in the world. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) did it.

Kutesa is one of just four Africans named, including outgoing Liberian president Sirleaf Johnson, former Kenyan minister Sally Kosgei, and Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

According to the BBC, in Appleby lingo, Kutesa would be listed as a Politically Exposed Person or PEP, a label for “someone with a prominent profile – a celebrity of the political, diplomatic, military or judicial worlds – who, through their prominent position or influence, is more susceptible to being involved in bribery or corruption”.

By extension, any close family member of a PEP, is also a PEP, according to the BBC.

Kutesa is not just Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, he is a former President of the United Nations General Assembly and one of the richest members of President Yoweri Museveni’s inner circle.

His former wife, the late Jennifer Kutesa was also a cousin to the president’s wife, Janet Museveni and his daughter, Charlotte Nankunda, is married to the president’s son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

While his official roles and blood ties with the first family are significant, it is his past that raises a lot of interest in Kutesa’s offshore business dealings.

Kutesa reacts

As part of a periodic review in 2015, Appleby labeled Kutesa’s companies a “high risk,” given his political role and media reports of alleged corruption and bribery involving him.

But Kutesa told Appleby that the purpose of the trust was to separate his government income “from his personal assets and belongings.”

Since being exposed, he has said he sought to avoid taxes, which is not illegal.

“I thought you could avoid, not evade, taxes,” he told the ICIJ affiliate in Uganda, the Daily Monitor, “I don’t have anything to hide.”

But the timing of the move is intriguing none the less, even without suggesting any criminality.

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