Uganda Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, with the help of his wife Edith Gasana, allegedly solicited the $500,000 bribe from Chinese investors, according to the complaint sworn before a US Magistrate Kevin Fox.
Thomas McNulty, a Special Agent with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), swore the complaint before US Magistrate Kevin Fox on November 16, 2017 following the arrest of Chi Ping Patrick Ho, Hong Kong’s former Home Secretary, and Cheikh Gadio, a one-time foreign minister of Senegal over bribery allegations.
With what the prosecutors call ‘The Uganda Scheme’, it all began in October 2014 when Chi Ping Patrick Ho aka “Patrick C.P. Ho” met Sam Kutesa who has just began his term of office as president of the UN General Assembly.
During the year, according to the criminal complaints, Ho and Kutesa discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and the Energy Company (which befits descriptions of China Energy Fund Committee, CEFC) for various business ventures, to be formed once Kutesa completed his term as president of the UN General Assembly president in 2015.
In or about February 2016, according to the complaint, when Kutesa had returned to Uganda after the expiry of his term, he reportedly then solicited the payment from Ho, purportedly to a charitable organization that he wished to launch.
The $500,000 was then wired to Kutesa’s account in Uganda through a bank in New York. In his communications, Ho variously referred to this payment as a “donation to the reelection campaign” of President Yoweri Museveni, the statement says. However, by the time the money was sent, Museveni had already been reelected for a fifth term in office.
“In reality, this payment was a bribe to obtain business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to secure contracts and ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sectors”, says the complaint.
According to the complaint, as soon as Kutesa became president of the UN General Assembly, in September 2014, Ho “cultivated” a relationship with Kutesa, focusing on his ability to connect him and the Energy Company to President Museveni and, thereby, assisting the company to obtain lucrative energy and financial opportunities in Uganda.
Shortly after his term ended as PGA, Kutesa reportedly travelled to China and appointed the chairman of the Chinese company as a “Special honorary Advisor” to the PGA and obtained a promise that the company would provide the “donation”.
On September 29, 2014, Ho emailed the Chef de Cabinet or Chief of Staff, introducing himself as the deputy chairman and secretary general of the Energy NGO. He described this NGO as a Chinese think tank registered in Hong Kong and also in the USA as a public charity and that it has been granted special consultative status from UN’s Economic and Social Council.
Ho then requested a meeting with Kutesa “to introduce oursel[ves] to the PGA , and to extend to his Excellency personally our invitation to him to visit us in Hong [Kong] and in China.”
The next day, the chief of staff responded that “[w]e will make arrangements for the meeting” and also reportedly provided his cellphone number.
On October 10, 2014, Ho emailed the chief of staff saying “Thank you for arranging the luncheon with PGA today…I introduced the background and the past work of [the Energy NGO], especially its collaborations and cooperations with the UN”.
He also said in the email that he extended an invitation to the PGA to join the high level Steering Committee [of a UN-related award that the Energy NGO sponsors] and the PGA kindly accepted”, the sheet notes.
He went on to say that “he exchanged views on the importance of energy development for Africa, and we agreed that there could be tremendous potential of investment joint ventures to develop Uganda’s hydropower with a consideration of implementing a smart super-grid to share electricity throughout the region”.
On November 21, 2014, Ho received multiple Chinese documents from the Chairman of the Energy Company titled “Report on the meeting with 69th PGA [Kutesa]”.
In the email, it was revealed that on October 19, 2014, Ho met Kutesa for nearly three hours in his PGA office in New York. He persuaded Kutesa to make an official PGA trip to China during his one-year term. Kutesa also reportedly agreed to stay an extra day to visit the Energy Company, the Energy NGO and the chairman.
During the meeting, Kutesa reportedly told Ho that if his energy company wished to form long-term strategic partnerships in Uganda in its energy, hydroelectric and financial industries, he was more than happy to arrange for a meeting with the president of Uganda “in the shortest possible time”.
About three months later, on March 12, 2015, Ho again met with Kutesa who promised him that he would support the Energy NGO’s activities at the UN including a forum on China that the Energy NGO wished to host. Kutesa told Ho that he was planning to visit China in April 2015.
Kutesa was to be accompanied by his wife and that the Energy NGO would “coordinate all [his] unofficial activities, which include a visit to the Energy Company in Shanghai and in Hong Kong.”
Kutesa “expressed willingness in assisting the Energy Company to form a strategic partnership in Uganda to make investments in the country’s four known oil fields, national bank, hydropower grid, highway and railway constriction”. Kutesa boasted that he could make an arrangement on short notice for the chairman to meet “with President Museveni who is my brother in-law.”
On March 17, 2015 Kutesa’s wife emailed Ho saying: ”Dear Patrick…it was so nice to have such quality time to talk and discuss about different opportunities of investing in East Africa and in Uganda in particular. Thank you so much, we enjoyed having you.”
She further stated: “recaps that concerned” her including;
“[W]e talked about banking sector with the possibility of acquiring a bank and also engaging Bank of Uganda in a deeper reflection about creating a direct link between our currencies, a project for which I would be happy to facilitate and we should discuss this further when we meet in HK [Hong Kong].”
“I expressed the strong wish” to meet with a particular Chinese Company, which offers mobile payment services, “to discuss the possibility of franchising their technology in Uganda or find any other arrangement for my company to use their system to provide e-ticketing to the transportation system.” In addition, I…have asked if you could help my company find an investor.”
Concluding: “I hope and wish that my message finds you well and thank you again for your time, the gifts and willingness to help me.”
On April 20, 2015, the Energy NGO organised a conference at the UN in New York, which was moderated by HO and officiated by Kutesa as the president of the UN General Assembly.
Concerning the “my company” (MCash or MobiCash) that Ms Kutesa referred to was “cashless mobile financial platform” where she is the CEO, Ho arranged for a meeting with Ms Kutesa and the Chinese company whose technology she was interested in.
In February 2016… based on review of emails, Kutesa, aided by his wife Edith, solicited for a bribe from Howhich he characterised as “donation/contribution” for a foundation that Kutesa wished to launch. Kutesa reportedly linked the request to a promise by the chairman during his visit to China in August 2015.
Upon making the payment, Ho emphasised that the Energy Company expected assistance from Kutesa with respect to “major projects, from infrastructure, energy, agriculture to finance and banking” in Uganda.
Kutesa and his wife reportedly assured Ho that President Museveni would meet the Energy officials and would work together on various projects, including the potential sale of a Ugandan bank to the Energy Company.
On February 24, 2016, Ms Kutesa wrote to Ho with a subject line “Reconnection”. She said: “We can now relax and reprogram the projects we discussed about with your chairman when we were in Hong Kong last August. [Kutesa] would like in particular to catch up with you regarding his foundation which he wishes to launch as soon as possible and would appreciate to receive the contribution/donation promised by the Chairman”.
Ms Kutesa then went on to provide the bank wiring details in the name of a charitable foundation, “the Ugandan Foundation”.
On February 28, 2016, Ho replied saying in part: “I think it would be a wonderful gesture if an invitation could be sent to the chairman to be a VIP guest at the inaugural or similar ceremony when the president ascends into the new term, with a note of thanks to the chairman for the support which he will then make good. This is only my personal suggestion to facilitate the exchange.”
On February 29, 2016, Ms Kutesa wrote: “Would it be possible for you to confirm the contribution to his Foundation so that he can launch it not so late after the campaign. It was one of our commitment to job creation for youth in our constituency and as you know, youth are impatient”.
Adding: “By the way Global [Trust] Bank in Africa is soon quitting the continent…considering the growing trade between China and Africa, this is a great opportunity in [the banking] sector in Africa”.
In a March 26, 2016 email, Ho emailed Kutesa’s wife stating: “Yes, the chairman will make good his pledge of donation to support [the PGA].
Adding: “We are also awaiting news of the VIP invitations to witness the President’s inauguration in May, as the chairman and I need to make travelling plans. We will also bring an entourage of CEOs to Uganda to directly dovetail with your heads of businesses.
Just give me a list of all the major projects, from infrastructure, energy, agriculture, to finance and banking and we will bring the relevant heads to your country to kick-start each project. If that happens, we would expect to be received warmly by [the Ugandan Foreign Minister] and other heads of government, including the president.“
On May 5, 2016, $500,000 was transferred to Kutesa’s account.
GIFTS TO MUSEVENI
On My 8, 2016 an email from an Energy NGO employee stated: “Shanghai wants us to suggest what kind of gift to the President, [Kutesa], China Ambassador and the other for spare, then they will purchase tomorrow.
On May 9, 2016: Ho emailed Kutesa and his wife detailing their travel plans and stating that they would be presenting two gifts to President Museveni and Kutesa himself.
In another email exchange on the same date, Ho emailed another unnamed individual, copying in Kutesa’s wife, with the subject line “Urgent request”.
Ho said: “As we are about to board the plane to Uganda, we are preparing to bring with us some very ‘nice’ gifts to your president and to the [Foreign Affairs minister Kutesa] to celebrate the occasion. We shall require special assistance with your customs procedure. Please assist in whatever way you can, otherwise we will make other plans.”
The email was then forward to Kutesa. Ms Kutesa reportedly replied: “We will be there at your arrival”.
ENTER CRANE BANK
Although the complaints do not state the bank that Ms Kutesa proposed to the Chinese, the description befits that of Crane bank.
On October 13, 2016, Ms Kutesa emailed Ho under subject line: “Opportunity to invest in Banking Sector”
“The Central Bank official you met during your visit has contacted us to inform you about the possible acquisition of a local Bank but as you may know, selling a bank is a very confidential and urgent process”.
According the complaints, Ms Kutesa provided the website of the said bank and instructed Ho to send a letter to the deputy governor of Bank of Uganda Loius Kasekende.
“It is imperative that the letter is sent by close of business today through email…in the meantime, I would love to talk to you on phone.”
Ho obliged and sent the email to Kasekende as asked, according to the complaints. In his submission, Ho says, according to press reports, on October 20, 2016, the central bank took over a Ugandan bank. Essentially this was Crane bank.
On October 25, 2016, Ho received an email from a Ugandan bank official asking if his company was still interested in acquiring a bank in Uganda.
Eventually, dfcu acquired Crane bank in January 2017.
On November 21, 2017, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry released a statement dismissing claims against Kutesa as “erroneous to insinuate or infer that Kutesa, from references made to him and CEFC in the said media stories, is linked to the bribery allegations”.
The ministry said Kutesa interacted with Ho in his official capacity as the President of the UN General Assembly. Kutesa, the ministry explained, in the course of his work as PGA during his 69th session in 2014/15, interacted and engaged with numerous organisations including civil society, media and the private sector.
“This engagement, a role undertaken by all the presidents of the General Assembly, is necessary for promoting the core objectives of the UN in the areas of development, peace and security as well as human rights.”