Faces behind Uganda Vinci Coffee unveiled

Ambassadors and High Commissioners of different countries tour coffee plants at the presidential demonstration farm in Kawumu in Luweero District on May 19. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

What you need to know:

  • UVCC, which registered on January 9, 2014, is owned by four individuals and one firm, with all owners having registered addresses in the United Arab Emirates.

An investigation by Saturday Monitor has unlocked the ownership puzzle around Uganda Vinci Coffee Company (UVCC). 

The company has dominated news since a coffee processing agreement it entered into with the Government of Uganda (GoU), on February 10, came to light.

Documents show that UVCC—which registered on January 9, 2014—is owned by four individuals and one firm (Hawk Limited). All owners have registered addresses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a flourishing tax haven.

The individual owners include Ahmed Ahmed Sultan Ismail and Hisham Ahmed Sultan Ismail both of whom have equal shares of 10, and are registered on address P.O.Box 118508, Dubai UAE. 

Other owners
Their Abu Dhabi-based colleagues—Ibrahim Elias Salloum and Hadi Elias Salloum of P.O.Box. 46527—also have an equal share holding of 10. 

Hawk Limited—with 960 shares to its name—is registered on P.O.Box 58562, Dubai, UAE.
An attempt by Saturday Monitor to sketch the portraits of the individual owners ran into a brick wall.

Information about the quartet—including investment portfolios—oscillates between scanty and non-existent.

Enrica Pinetti, who witnessed the coffee processing agreement in February, is registered as a single director. 

The Italian also doubles as chairperson of the company, whose board comprises five slots, including the vice chairperson, secretary and two members.

Ms Pinetti witnessed the agreement together with UVCC’s company secretary, Mr Moses Matovu; and Ramathan Ggoobi, the Secretary to the Treasury. 

Finance minister Matia Kasaija signed on behalf of GoU. 
The agreement—whose contents were first published by this newspaper—offers UVCC a 10-year tax holiday, waivers on power tariffs and constant water supply, among others. 

This has been much to the dismay of Ugandans.
Our revelation that owners of UVCC are domiciled in two cities (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) in the UAE shines the spotlight even brighter on Ms Pinetti. 

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ 2010 data leak indicated that the Italian had three companies (Finmed Design Consultancy Ltd, Medfin Engineering Ltd, and Finasset General Contractor Ltd) in the tax havens of the UAE, as well as the British Virgin Islands.

Documents that Saturday Monitor accessed indicate that UVCC opened an account in a Ugandan commercial bank following a board resolution on November 25, 2019. 

Ahmed Ahmed Sultan Ismail and Hisham Ahmed Sultan Ismail were the authorised signatories, while Reddy Vuyyuru and Simanone Palmiere are the banking agents.

Earlier on November 9, 2019, another resolution unanimously agreed that two accounts in Uganda and US currencies be opened. 

Ms Pinetti is one of the three signatories, including Sultan Ismail and Hisham Ahmed Sultan Ismail.
In documents obtained by Saturday Monitor, a company form indicates that the particulars of the shareholders are empty. 

There is no name or details other than those of Mr Matovu as company secretary and Ms Pinetti as director.

On Form A2 that declares compliance, lawyer David Mpanga of P.O. Box 9566, Kampala and Kampala Associated Advocates, signed and swore that all requirements to register a company in Uganda had been fulfilled.
The document bears the stamp of Sam Mayanja of KAA, who is also the current junior Lands minister.

Background...The backlash
The Government of Uganda has found itself facing a public backlash ever since details of the agreement were revealed. Whereas Attorney General (AG) Kiwanuka Kiryowa has been quick to own the agreement, Solicitor General (SG) Francis Atoke distanced himself from it.

The agreement followed marathon steps taken by the government, including amending the Coffee Act and withdrawing from the International Coffee Organisation.