KAMPALA. New details have linked the deportation of three senior MTN workers to Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine.
Security sources told this newspaper last evening that they were looking into clues that the suspects had links with the legislator.
According to sources, Ms Elsa Mussolini, the MTN general manager mobile money, was deported on claims that she facilitated the transfer of undisclosed amount of funds to Mr Kyagulanyi.
Daily Monitor could not independently verify the claim and what the money was meant for.
Mr Kyagulanyi is the architect of People Power, a pressure group which championed protests against a one per cent tax levy on mobile money transactions last year.
A screenshot of a social media account that appears to belong to a woman, also cited Bobi Wine in the on-going investigations.
“..Main allegation [being] that I gave money to Bobi Wine during the 1% tax campaign...” the screenshot quotes Mussolini.
For instance, it’s alleged that Ms Mussolini in one of her parting shots, disclosed that her deportation was in connection with the legislator.
However, when asked last evening whether security agencies were investigating MTN executive for funding Mr Kyagulanyi’s campaigns against mobile money taxes, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said: “That is not a national security concern.”
Attempts to reach Mr Kyagulanyi for a comment on the matter were futile as he was reported out of the country.
Meanwhile, the MTN Group chief executive officer, Mr Rob Shuter, yesterday met President Museveni in Switzerland two days after the telecommunication company’s three senior managers were arrested and deported from Uganda.
The MTN Uganda chief marketing officer, Mr Olivier Prentout (French), Ms Annie Bilenge Tabura (Rwandan), the telecom’s head of sales and distribution and Mr Elsa Mussolini (Italian), the general manager of Mobile Money, were deported on Monday over what police called “acts compromising national security.”
Police did not explain particulars of what the deportees did that constituted a threat to national security.
MTN confirmed the Group CEO met Mr Museveni, adding that the two discussed “recent developments in the market” but did not reveal particulars of their discussions.
“MTN Group CEO, Rob Shuter met with His Excellency, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda at the World Economic Forum to reaffirm MTN Group’s commitment to Uganda and discuss recent developments in the market,” MTN director of public relations in Kampala, Mr Paul Mwirigi, said in a brief statement yesterday.
It was not readily established whether the talks involved the Monday deportations and or President Museveni’s recent accusations that MTN was under-declaring its revenues and repatriating profits.
The State House press team that travelled with the President led by the deputy press secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi, could not be reached for details of the talks between Mr Museveni and Mr Shuter.
About three months ago, President Museveni wrote to Uganda Communications Commission demanding an explanation why the fees for renewal of MTN Uganda’s operating licence had been reduced from the original $100m (about Shs370 billion) to $58m (about Shs217b).
In his October 28, 2018, letter, Mr Museveni questioned UCC why it revised the licence fees without involving the Ministry of Finance and Uganda Revenue Authority.
He said government was aware that MTN Uganda was under-declaring its profits and repatriating them.
Following the contentious deportations on Monday, there was information yesterday that more five MTN officials had been summoned by police for interrogation but this claim could not be independently verified. Neither police nor MTN could confirm the reports either.
The chairman of MTN Uganda, Mr Charles Mbiire, was also said to have been summoned by police, but upon contact he denied the claim.
“I have not received them [summons]. But if there is anything to do with the security of the Republic of Uganda, I am always willing to help them (police) and talk to them,” Mr Mbiire told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga declined to comment on the reported summons.
“It’s [information] protected for now to enable (detectives) clear significant lines of inquiry,” Mr Enanga said. The State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Obiga Kania, said he had not been briefed about the reported police summons to the five MTN workers.
“I’m completely blank on the matter. I have no details because I have been out of office,” he said.
The French and Italian embassies did not reply our emails inquiring about the trouble of their deported citizens.
However, Rwanda’s State Minister for East African Community Affairs, Amb Olivier Nduhungirehe, said the arrest and deportation of their national Ms Tabura, is part of “a pattern” by the Kampala administration to harass Rwandans in Uganda.
“She was expelled for being a Rwandan national. Her only crime is being a Rwandan,” Amb Nduhungirehe alleged, adding that hundreds of Rwandans who travel to Uganda are being arrested and kept in non-gazetted detention centres where they are undergoing varying harassment.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda Frank Mugambage on Tuesday said that he had written several protest letters to the Uganda government about harassment and deportation of their nationals in Uganda but had never received a response.
However, the Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr Patrick Mugoya said: “Deporting someone who is not desirable in a country is a normal thing. I have been receiving Ugandans who are deported from Europe, America and Asia. There must be a reason why these people are being deported. Every state has a right to ask someone to leave if they are not desirable.”