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How Canadian investors were conned by Ugandans at Parliament

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The Ugandan Parliament in Kampala. PHOTO/FILE

State House’s Anti-Corruption Unit is investigating the circumstances under which Canadian investors were conned out of $50,000 (about Shs187m) in a scam that partially played out in Parliament.

While Ms Natasha Mariam Oduka, the spokesperson of the Unit, claimed not to have knowledge of the investigation, saying she needed to verify, impeccable sources told us that the investigation has been ongoing since last November when the Canadians petitioned the Unit. 

Sunday Monitor established that the Canadians released the money to purportedly facilitate, among others, the registration of a sister company in Uganda, opening of local bank accounts, and facilitating lawyers’ professional fees. While these were supposedly prerequisites for the award of a multimillion-dollar solar energy project under the Office of the President, it turned out to be a sham.

International PV Development Company (IPVDC), the Canadian Solar PV company that lost the money to the fraudsters in March 2022, was set up in 2019 by Mr Kent Heinrich and Mr Tunji Johnson. Its intention at inception was to invest in renewable energy projects in Africa for purposes of boosting supply of power to the national grids and extending power to remote communities.

The investors were told that the President intended to set up two 20megawatt solar power plants in both Busunju and Pader in fulfilment of a campaign promise. 

We understand that the scam involved a former mayor of one of Uganda’s cities, a former lawmaker who represented one of the constituencies in Jinja District in the 10th Parliament, and a sitting member of the 11th Parliament.

Sunday Monitor has learnt that the fake contract agreement was signed from within the boardroom of the Government Chief Whip.

According to a copy of the investors’ complaint dated November 18, 2023, the fraudsters presented themselves to the investors as high-ranking officials in both the Office of the President and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), with one of them claiming to be the chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Procurement.


According to documents, which Sunday Monitor has seen, the investors were contacted in September 2022 by officials of Nile Links Company Limited, a firm that claimed to have been commissioned by the government “to source potential business investors and international partners willing to invest in Uganda”.

 They were in December 2022 asked to send a letter of intent, detailing their intention to build solar power plants. The receipt of which precipitated a response in the form of an approval that was purported to have come from the NRM.

It was after this exchange of communications that IPVDC was extended an invitation letter for the purpose of processing a visa to visit Uganda, meet the officials and inspect project sites in Busunju and Pader. The site visits would be followed by a meeting with the chairman of the Presidential Procurement Committee and other government officials; acquiring a license to operate in Uganda; and signing of contracts and agreements.

The fraud starts

IPVDC then went on to register a sister company in Uganda and sent the registration documents to the said officials, but they were rejected.

“This was rejected on the claim that His Excellency the President of Uganda cannot use the company, that the government will have to assign us a selected lawyer who will assist us in registering a company formally in Uganda with the right share capital that will match the volume of the project we are aiming at,” Mr Tunji wrote.

A “government appointed lawyer” who was introduced to the investors demanded $2,000 (about Shs7.4m), which was duly transferred into his account. The registration paved the way for the IPVDC team’s travel to Uganda, arriving on March 11, 2023. They were met at the airport by Nile Links officials, who drove them to the Admas Grand Hotel in Entebbe.

“At the airport, Nile links sent Mr Nathan, a logistics officer, Mr Peter, and a police officer, a jeep, and an escort car to welcome and pick us from the airport,” Mr Tunji wrote.

Meeting in Parliament

On March 14, the two directors were driven to Parliament.

“Mr Natan, Peter of Nile Links were sent with a black jeep to pick us from the hotel to the Uganda Parliament. We arrived at the Parliament and passed through the security check, after which we were granted entrance into the Ugandan Parliament,” Mr Tunji wrote.

At Parliament, the group had a meeting with eight individuals who claimed to be representatives of the Nile Links Limited, the NRM and members of the Presidential Committee on Procurement.

The meeting was attended by the former lawmaker and former mayor already alluded to. According to Mr Tunji’s letter, the meeting was chaired by the former mayor, who also claimed to be a member of the 11th Parliament.

How the group accessed the precincts of Parliament and also gained access to the Government Chief Whip’s boardroom remains a major talking point. It suggests collusion on the part of either security or employees of Parliament.

However, the Director for Communication and Public Affairs, Mr Chris Obore, defended Parliament, saying it cannot stop people from visiting the institution.

“Parliament hosts some MPs’ offices, so we can’t stop visitors of MPs. The good thing is the complainant knows those he dealt with. The State investigatory and disciplinary apparatus can handle the matter,” Mr Obore said.

Cash transfer

On March 15, the two were provided with police escorts to facilitate their travel to the site in Busunju before they returned to Parliament the following day where they were informed that there was no way they would do business in Uganda without registration of a company.

“At the meeting, we were reminded by Dr Edwin that the only way we can move forward was to re- register a company in Uganda as requested by His Excellency,” Mr Tunji wrote.

Mr Kent duly authorised his bank in Canada to transfer $45,000 into the dollar account of the government appointed lawyer.

The investors were issued with a certificate of incorporation, which they later discovered was fake and not registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau.

On March 22, 2022, the investors were driven to Parliament for the contract signing ceremony. That was the third time they were at the Parliament. 

However, no sooner had the agreement been signed than the former mayor raised the need for the investors to pay a two percent security bond before the contract could be actualised. He reportedly claimed that the President had issued a directive that all contractors pay the said money as proof of capacity to perform.

The investors raised objections, saying that no bank in Canada would allow transfer of $275,000 (about Shs1 billion) to an African country for business because of money laundering rules and possible financial scams.

The investors then suggested that local banks be looped in, which prompted the fraudsters to take them to one of the local banks where an official, who is suspected to have been part of the scam, was handed $300 (Shs1 million) to facilitate opening of a local account.

Another $1,200 (Shs4.5 million) was on the same day paid out to another fraudster for purposes of acquiring an operational licence. The licence that was availed also turned out to be fake.

The two left Uganda on March 24, 2023, hoping to return to Uganda for the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2023. That was, however, not to be as it subsequently emerged that the so-called solar energy project under the Office of the President was a sham.

Past incidents 

This is not the first-time fraudsters have used the premises of parliament. In 2022, a group of Qatari investors were defrauded of about $306, 950 (about Shs1.2 billion) in a sham presidential schools' project. The fake agreement that led to the fraud was also signed from one of the committee rooms at parliament.