How American bribery case sucked in Museveni
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa is likely to come under fire from Parliament following exposure of a deal in which he received a dodgy “donation” of US$500,000 (Approx. Shs1.8 billion) from a Chinese NGO cum think tank.
The American government is treating the Kutesa bribe as a case of engaging in corrupt practices and international money laundering and two diplomats; a Senegalese and a Chinese, linked to giving Kutesa the bribe have been arrested in Virginia, U.S.
The two face eight charges of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering which prohibits U.S. based companies from making payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.
This means that Kutesa has not been indicted because he is not a representative of a U.S-based company accused of violating FCPA and he did not make the payment.
Back home, Kutesa remains a free and innocent person until proven guilty and no warrant has been issued for his arrest in the U.S. But he should expect some grilling from parliament.
Some MPs have already demanded that Kutesa resigns. One of these legislators is Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga, who is also the vice chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. Karuhanga has noted that he and a few others were opposed to Kutesa’s UN appointment.
“One of the things we mentioned was that this man is so grossly wrong that he may even sell chairs of the United Nations,” Karuhanga told journalists at parliament, “He is probably the most corrupt individual that this country has witnessed in recent times.”
The expected grilling in parliament will be the height of two taxing months in which Kutesa has faced back-to-back accusations of impropriety.
Just last month, in October, he was named and shamed as the proud owner of two off-shore companies. Although not a crime, holding offshore businesses is scorned upon by ethicists as a sign of corruption, shady dealing, money laundering, and tax dodging.
Kutesa is not helped by having a slew of corruption scandals behind him. A former U.S. Ambassador has described his corruption scandals as “egregious” – meaning “outstandingly bad, shocking”, and the UK has considered a visa sanction against him. Kutesa is said to be a major power broker who fronts companies for business using his close links to the decision makers.
His name just keeps popping up in almost every other major corruption scandal or crooked business deal in Uganda. And every time it does, Kutesa, pleads innocent, is let off the hook, and carries on as before.
The new Chinese bribe scandal, however, might not be easily shaken off as it has dragged in two presidents, the United Nations, a deputy governor of the central bank and diplomats from China, Senegal, Chad, and Uganda.
Most of these individuals and institutions will seek to clear their reputations even if Kutesa might want the affair hushed up as quickly as possible.
President Yoweri Museveni, who has been directly named as a beneficiary of what the FBI is calling the “Money Laundering Uganda Scheme”, has not spoken out on the issue.
But his colleague, President Idriss Déby of Chad, who allegedly got a bribe of US$2 million from the same Chinese who bribed Kutesa, has issued a denial.
Déby’s bribe was offered by a former Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheik Gadio who also allegedly got US$400,000.
Apart from President Museveni, an official referred to as the Vice President of Bank of Uganda, who is suspected to be Bank of Uganda Deputy Governor Louise Kasekende, has also been put on the spot for colluding with Kutesa and his wife to sell a local bank to the same bribe-giving Chinese.
The bribery accusations against Kutesa also will not go away easily as they hint on Kutesa’s behavior while he was president of the UN General Assembly and expose the underworld of lobbyists and operations of front men and women who trade in their country’s assets.