Police open inquiry into oil bribes claim

Wednesday April 10 2013

By ISAAC IMAKA

Police have opened a formal investigation into allegations that senior government officials leaked information to Tullow Oil and negotiated an undocumented payment, ostensibly on behalf of President Museveni.

CIID Director Grace Akullo confirmed to the Daily Monitor last night that she had assigned detectives to investigate the claims made in a London court. “The President asked me to pick interest in the matter; so I can confirm that we have officially opened the investigations,” she said.

However, MPs yesterday questioned the underlying motives for the inquiry and accused the President of double standards for calling for an investigation two years after opposing a House proposal for independent investigations into earlier bribery allegations in the oil sector. “He is the same person who came out and said that what we had said in Parliament were complete falsehoods and concoctions but now that his name has also been brought in he has come out to call for investigations,” Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (NRM, Ndorwa East) said yesterday.

Allegations in Parliament linking ministers Sam Kutesa, Amama Mbabazi and Hilary Onek to bribery in the oil sector were dismissed by a government investigation.

However, the bribery claims were resurrected last month during arbitration proceedings between Tullow and Heritage oil in a London court in which lawyers representing the latter accused the former of discussing an “undocumented” $50m payment to “meet the short-term needs and demands” of President Museveni.

A government-owned newspaper yesterday named Lawrence Kiiza, a senior official in the Finance ministry, as having negotiated with Tullow over the $50m payment. No evidence has been provided to show that the money was paid. Mr Museveni denies any wrongdoing, with his lawyers on March 19 writing to Tullow for an explanation and a demand that if any payment was made, whoever received the money be named.

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Tullow chief executive Aidan Heavey denied the whole affair, pleading his company’s innocence and regretting the “false allegations” which he ascribed to out of context reporting of court proceedings. The President had asked his lawyers to get to the bottom of a claim that Tullow Oil’s exploration director, Angus McCoss, proposed in an August 2010 email that the company considers paying $50m to “meet the short term needs and demands” of the President, who was referred to as ‘M7’ in the purported correspondence.

“In 2010, the President knew that Parliament and the public were going to get the truth but the truth is finally coming out no matter how slow it is coming,” Tororo MP Geoffrey Ekanya (FDC) said yesterday. “Is it because his name has now been dragged in?” Other MPs said the President is only calling for the probe because he wants to manage suspicions that oil money may have allegedly found its way into his 2011 campaigns. But the ruling NRM deputy treasurer, Mr Singh Katongole, said the party never received money from any foreigner in 2011.

Attorney General, Peter Nyombi said: “I don’t know those allegations as facts but what I know is that if a political party or someone secures money through bribery, that is a crime but I don’t know whether NRM or any other party did that,” he said.

FDC secretary general Alice Alaso said her party has proof that the NRM used bribe money in 2011.

iimaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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