Government to probe Kutesa over bribery allegations

Mr Kutesa

Kampala- President Museveni yesterday revealed that he had spoken with Foreign minister Sam Kutesa over allegations of receiving $500,000 (Shs1.9b) payment from a Chinese national in exchange for favourable business consideration in Uganda.

In answer to a question by journalist Joseph Sabiti during a press conference last evening, Mr Museveni said the government will look into the claims to establish whether a crime had been committed or not.
If the money was a bribe, the President said, the minister would be “answerable”.

“He [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?” Mr Museveni said.

The southern district of New York court in the United States last Wednesday convicted Hong Kong’s former Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Chi-Ping Ho, 69, for allegedly offering bribe payments of Shs1.9b each to Mr Kutesa and President Museveni in 2016.

The President during yesterday’s press conference did not address the aspect that an amount equal to that allegedly offered to the Foreign minister was separately arranged for himself by Mr Ho, according to court records.

There is no evidence that Mr Museveni expected, solicited or received such money. Both the President and minister Kutesa were not defendants in the case and were not called to testify.

Federal prosecutors told court during trial that the money for the minister was wired from Hong Kong, a territory in southeastern China, through intermediary banks in the US and transferred to a Ugandan bank that credited it on the account of Food Security and Sustainable Energy Foundation, a charity that Mr Kutesa and his wife run.

In his first public comments on the matter, and almost a week after the verdict, President Museveni said: “Obviously, it is a crime for him to get money from a foreign company. What for? What were they paying you for?”

Court records show that Mr Ho, 69, headed China Energy Fund Committee, an NGO based in both Hong Kong and Arlington, Virginia, in the US.

The NGO was funded by China Energy Company Limited (CECL) and enjoyed a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and Mr Ho, according to federal filings, used this privilege to cultivate a relationship with Mr Kutesa when the latter served as the President of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2014/15.

The two discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and CEFC China for various business ventures to be formed once Mr Kutesa completed his one-year tenure, federal prosecutors told court.

Upon return to Uganda and resuming his substantive job as Uganda’s Foreign minister, prosecutors said Mr Kutesa solicited and received Shs1.9b payment for their charitable foundation from Mr Ho, who simultaneously requested, and on behalf of CEFC China, an invitation to President Museveni’s May 2016 inauguration which they attended.