Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | MTN’s Chief Executive Officer Wim Vanhelleputte who was deported in February over allegations of undermining state security, has been allowed back into the country after top level discussions between the South African company and President Yoweri Museveni.
The president’s press secretary Don Wanyama confirmed the development with a tweet, saying ” Following discussions with MTN Group top management, Presidenthas exercised his executive discretion and allowed @ CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte, back into the country. He is expected to resume his duties.”
MTN Group confirmed the development, saying in a statement that “MTN confirms that the President of the Republic of Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has exercised executive discretion to permit MTN CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte’s unconditional return to Uganda.”
The statement concluded that “MTN wishes to express its gratitude to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda, all government officials, Ministries, Departments and Agencies for their support and goodwill for making this possible. MTN Uganda is a law-abiding corporate citizen and is committed to continue to play its part in the development of Uganda.”
How Vanhelleputte was deported
Vanhelleputte was deported on the orders of the Internal Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odong.
This was in the middle of investigations that MTN staff were allegedly compromising National Security using their positions at the company. The Belgian was the fourth employee of Uganda’s telecom giant to be deported after being declared prohibited immigrants.
MTN staff deported earlier included Italian national Elsa Mussolini, the former General Manager for Mobile Finance Services, French national Olivier Prentout, who was the Chief Marketing Officer at MTN-Uganda and Rwandan national Annie Bilenge Tabura, the General Manager, Sales and Distribution at MTN-Uganda.
The investigations began in July 2018 after the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) raided their call centre in Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb last year and confiscated the company servers.
According to a source in Security circles, the government at the time had received intelligence information relating to espionage, tax evasion and money laundering.
After his deportation, Vanhelleputte filed a suit challenging his deportation from Uganda. He asked the court to quash the deportation and order for general damages for illegal detention and deportation, describing it as irrational.
He argued that the process used by the Minister of Internal Affairs Odongo to declare him undesirable was highhanded and arbitrary, and he has decided to challenge it in court.
Vanhelleputte says he has been married to a Ugandan, Barbara Adoso Vanhelleputte with whom they have since sired two children in a relationship that has continued for 19-years.
Vanhelleputte argued that he was never accorded a fair or just treatment before, during and after the making of the deportation orders.
He explains that prior to his deportation he had been summoned thrice, on January 22, January 29 and on February 14, 2019, to appear before the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka where he interfaced with Elly Womanya, the officer in charge of criminal investigations and Brigadier Abel Kandiho, the Commander of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, who interrogated him before handing him to another person.
He added that one of the main issues of interest during the interrogation was as to whether he was communicating with MTN staff that had earlier been declared persona non grata. He said he acknowledged that they were still in contact because they had not handed over offices at the time of abrupt deportation, and needed to ensure continuity of company operations.