Ugandan judges and court registrars have been cited before a United States court for allegedly taking bribes to facilitate illegal adoption of Ugandan children by American families.
The individual judicial officers were not named in proceedings at Northern District of Ohio Court in US, but 58-year-old Robin Longoria, of Mansfield, Texas, pleaded guilty before US Magistrate Judge William H. Baughman Jr, to making the payouts disguised as fees.
A statement on the US Department of Justice website posted on August 29 confirms Ms Longoria pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to commit wire fraud and to commit visa fraud.
In Kampala, Judiciary spokesperson Solomon Muyita yesterday said they were seeking more details to ascertain particulars of the culpable judges and registrars because the practice, besides being criminal, also injures the reputation of Uganda’s Judiciary.
“We will get in touch with the United States embassy in Kampala to get details. Any one named will have to be referred to the Judicial Service Commission to explain their actions,” he said.
Ms Longoria is due to be sentenced in the US on January 20, 2019.
“The defendant compromised protections for vulnerable Ugandan children and undermined the United States’ visa screening process,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, according to the last Thursday statement.
“[last week’s] plea ensures that she is held accountable for the far-reaching consequences of her corrupt conduct.” Ms Longoria admitted to playing a part in a conspiracy in which judges and other court officials in Africa were paid bribes to corrupt the adoption process, according to US Attorney Justin Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio.
“We are committed to pursuing justice for the adoptive parents and for all parties involved,” Mr Herdman said.
Allegations of Ugandan judicial officials receiving inducements to subvert the cause of justice are not new.
Increased reports of such conduct in July prompted Chief Justice Bart Katureebe to constitute the Dr Immaculate Busingye-led 8-member ad hoc committee, to investigate the graft claims and propose feasible solutions.
In 2017, American news outlet, Cable News Network (CNN), investigated and reported two children had been sold to foster families at $ 15,000 (Shs55m).Agents duped parents that their children could get education abroad and a European Adoptions Consulting agency deceived American parents that the children had been abandoned by parents.