An interim report submitted to Parliament by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga has exonerated Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa from any wrongdoing following the trial and indictment of Chinese national in a bribery case in United States.
“While it is true that Hon Kutesa’s name is mentioned in the indictment and featured in the course of the trial, he was or is not an accused or suspect in any criminal matter, closed or ongoing,” said Byaruhanga in a briefing to Parliament on Thursday.
Byaruhanga was on December 11 required by Parliament to prepare and present an interim report on allegations of bribery made against Hon. Kutesa in the course of the trial of the Chinese national in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York between November 2017 and December 2018.
Before the request by Parliament, Byaruhanga had been directed by the President to investigate the same matter.
The U.S. Justice Department said in a statement that Ho schemed to pay a $500,000 cash bribe to Museveni and offered to provide both Kutesa and Museveni with additional corrupt benefits by “partnering” with them in future joint ventures in Uganda.
The U.S. authorities further said during the year that Kutesa served as PGA, Ho and Kutesa discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and CEFC China for various business ventures, to be formed once Kutesa completed his term as PGA and returned to Uganda.
They further alleged that in or about February 2016 – after Kutesa had returned to Uganda and resumed his role as Foreign Minister, and Museveni had been reelected as the President of Uganda – Kutesa solicited a payment from Ho, purportedly for a charitable foundation that the Minister wished to launch.
Ho agreed to provide the requested payment, but simultaneously requested, on behalf of CEFC China, an invitation to Museveni’s inauguration, business meetings with President Museveni and other high-level Ugandan officials, and a list of specific business projects in Uganda that CEFC China could participate in.
ChimpReports understands in May 2016, Ho and CEFC China executives traveled to Uganda.
Prior to departing, Ho caused the CEFC NGO to wire $500,000 to the account provided by Kutesa in the name of the so-called “foundation,” which wire was transmitted through banks in New York.
Byaruhanga sought to ascertain the context in which Hon. Kutesa’s name featured in Mr. Ho’s trial in New York, and whether he received a bribe; consider and assess any relevant legal aspects pertaining to the matter with a view to tendering appropriate legal advice to the Government.
He told MPs he had obtained, studied and internalized the actual indictment papers for Mr. Ho and asked Hon. Kutesa to explain himself in writing, which he did on December 17.
In addition, since the allegations related to international transfers of cash, Byaruhanga said he requested the Financial Intelligence Authority to provide him with information on the wire transfer(s) referred to in the indictment against Mr. Ho.
He also requested Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited, the bank through which Hon. Kutesa is said to have received the payment under question, to provide him with information on the transaction.
He also sought from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau information on the existence of the Foundation that Hon. Kutesa and his wife are said to run and into whose account the funds were deposited by the donor.
Mr. Ho was convicted by the aforementioned US Court on 4th December 2018. Charges against his co-accused, one Cheikh Gadio from Senegal, were dropped in September 2018.
Byaruhanga said Hon Kutesa and his wife, Edith G. Kutesa, are Directors in a company limited by guarantee known as Food Security and Energy Sustainability Foundation.
“The Foundation is a lawfully registered Ugandan entity, incorporated on 24th July 2015,” said Byaruhanga.
The Foundation received a sum of US$ 499,993 on 9th May 2016 from a Hong Kong-based NGO known as China Energy Fund Committee.
Byaruhanga said “the money was a donation to the Food Security and Energy 2 Sustainability Foundation which Hon. Kutesa and his wife started as a vehicle for enabling Hon. Kutesa to continue to champion some of the causes he had spearheaded during his tenure as the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations with respect to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”
He added: “The pursuit of such causes by Presidents of the General Assembly upon leaving office through Foundations is an established tradition. Indeed, Hon. Kutesa (by virtue of his office) was introduced to China Energy Fund Committee, which had a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, which status pre-dated his tenure as the President of the General Assembly.”
The case has since threatened Kutesa’s long diplomatic career.
Byaruhanga said upon the receipt of the donation by the Foundation, Hon Kutesa, on behalf of the Foundation wrote to CEFC acknowledging the same on 10th June 2016.
He promised to continue investigating the matter and to engage with various other agencies and I expect to tender a full report to the President within a period of six to eight weeks.