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Kutesa ‘did not declare Shs2bn gift as per leadership code’

According to our leadership code, any leader or public servant who receives a donation or a gift worth more than $300 (Shs1 million) must declare and hand it over," said Oguttu. "Why didn’t Museveni and Kutesa declare and handover to IGG their dirty gift and donation of $500,000 each? They kept quiet because it was a bribe. And they know it very well."

CORRUPTION | Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa did not declare the $500,000 (about Shs2 billion) he received from a Chinese national in exchange for favourable business consideration in Uganda.

Patrick Ho Chi-ping, 69, was last week convicted by New York jury of offering millions of dollars in bribes to African leaders, including Minister Kutesa and President Museveni.

While Ho faces jail for his crime, Uganda has for the entire duration of his trial kept silent on the matter until the conviction. Addressing the nation on his new war on corruption this week, President Museveni was prompted by a journalist to comment on the matter, revealing that he had spoken with Kutesa and that the minister does not deny receiving the money.

“Kutesa told me that the money was for a charity; this is a question of fact. I have told him to be in touch with our Attorney General to cross-check; was this money for the charity or it was for him?” Museveni said.

However, the idea that the money was a donation has ignited queries on the manner it has been handled, with former Bukooli Central MP Wafula Oguttu raising concerns on whether Kutesa had declared the “gift donation” to the Inspector General of Government.

“According to our leadership code, any leader or public servant who receives a donation or a gift worth more than $300 (Shs1 million) must declare and hand it over,” said Oguttu.

“Why didn’t Museveni and Kutesa declare and handover to IGG their dirty gift and donation of $500,000 each? They kept quiet because it was a bribe. And they know it very well,” the former Leader of Opposition in Parliament added.

The indictment before the US jury, before him photos of Museveni and Kutesa were presented as “exhibits” as the prosecution sought to have a witness identify the two recipients of the bribe, says Ho separately arranged a “gift” to be delivered to Museveni in 2016.

However, IGG spokesperson Munira Ali on Wednesday told Crime24 that Kutesa did not declare the “gift donation,” which raises questions on the integrity of Museveni’s most trusted lieutenant.

The bribe

The US alleges that Kutesa’s $500,000 was wired from a New York-based bank to an account in Uganda for a fake charity, adding money laundering to the bribe charges against Ho, who is also understood to have given a gift to President Museveni during his 2016 swearing in ceremony.

Ho allegedly paid the bribes to illegally secure lucrative rights in the oil industry in Chad on behalf of giant energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co., a private Shanghai-based company.

In addition to oil and infrastructure, CEFC was to build a tourism theme park near Lake Victoria on land allocated by Museveni and to acquire Crane Bank.

According to Section 10 of the Leadership Code Act 2002, a leader may accept a personal gift or donation from a relative or personal friend to such an extent and on such occasion as is recognised by custom.

“Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a leader may accept a gift if the gift is in the nature of a souvenir or ornament and does not exceed five currency points in value,” the leadership code says.

“Where a leader receives any gifts or other benefits of a value of ten currency points or above from
anyone source in a twelve consecutive months period, the leader shall disclose that gift, or benefit to the Inspector-General.”

A currency point, under the law, is equivalent to Shs20,000.

It is difficult to see how Kutesa, a veteran politician and one of the longest serving minister in Museveni’s government, could not have put the leadership code in mind while receiving the “gift donation” to a charity that is yet to be named.

The minister, an in-law to the first family, has yet to address himself on the latest scandal shrouding his name. A breach of the leadership code of conduct is punishable with dismissal from office.

Investigating Kutesa

Museveni announced the government was investigating Kutesa on the matter with Attorney General William Byaruhanga on Tuesday telling Parliament that his office will have a report on the investigation ready in January.

However, the decision to investigate Kutesa using the attorney general did not go down well with a section of legislators, who said President Museveni is a party to the bribery scandal — according to the US jury — which creates a conflict of interest for the AG to investigate a matter in which his boss is a party to

The protest was fronted by Paul Mwiru (Jinja East) who requested Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to have a Parliament Select Committee set up to investigate the allegations other than Parliament having to rely on a report by the Attorney General who could be conflicted.

Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga County) wondered why Kutesa was still in office amid the scandal and his partner in crime being found guilty in the US.

Ssekikubo reminded the House that Herbert Kabafunzaki, former state minister of labour, was booted out of office after allegations of bribery were levelled against him.

“The tarnishing of Uganda’s image isn’t only Kutesa but he was in capacity of Foreign Affairs minister. And now the image of the country is way down, and I am surprised that government hasn’t deemed it credible to present a statement. Can we know the fate of Kutesa?” Ssekikubo said.

Medard Sseggona said Kutesa needs to explain why he denied ever receiving the money, yet the president confirmed that he discussed about the matter, saying the money was meant for charity.

A bag of corruption scandals

When the allegations first sufficed, legislators demanded Kutesa steps down but his office explained that it was erroneous to link Kutesa to the bribery allegations, insisting that the minister interacted with Ho in his official capacity as the President of the General Assembly.

Ssekikubo said: “Can we request that we go by rules and precedent the minister should step aside and allow thorough investigation to take place? Government should tell us how the money moved and Remember honourable Kutesa was implicated on supply of bogus vehicles for the Chogm, the advertisement for Chogm, then the oil bribery scandal,wired to Stanbic Bank without detection from the Financial Intelligence Authority.”

In 2012, Kutesa was thrown into a drum of crude oil alongside former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, and former internal affairs minister Hilary Onek, accused of receiving bribes from oil companies.

The officials were later cleared of wrongdoing in the Shs100 billion oil kickback scandal by a parliamentary ad hoc committee. But the stain did not go away.

Kutesa was implicated on supply of bogus vehicles for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala in 2007, and the advertisement for summit. But like before, he somehow wiggled out of the mire leaving only his shadow to doubt.

However, the minister has been guilty before. In 1998 Kutesa resigned from his position of state minister for investment as parliament prepared to censure him for benefiting from the sale of Uganda Airlines.

But Museveni’s government did not prosecute Kutesa and he returned to cabinet after the 2001 elections.

Report by Jacobs O. Seaman & Salomon Webomba

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