Last week on day two of Chi Ping Patrick Ho’s trial for allegedly bribing Chad’s President Idriss Deby $2 million in cash stuffed in gift boxes to get oil blocks rights and for bribing President Yoweri Museveni and his Foreign minister Sam Kutesa $500,000 each, jurors were shown Kutesa’s and another Ugandan aide’s photos on a courtroom projector.
Testifying was Vuk Jeremic, former foreign minister of Serbia and a former President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA). He served in 2012 and was succeeded by the late John Ashe; Kutesa assumed the post after Ashe.
The USA alleges that Kutesa’s 500,000 was wired from a New York-based bank to an account in Uganda for a fake charity, adding money laundering to the bribe charges against Ho. Gen. Museveni’s alleged $500,000, in cash, was wrapped in gift boxes Mafia-style and delivered by Ho to Uganda when President Museveni invited him to his 2016 swearing in.
Ho allegedly paid the bribes to illegally secure lucrative rights in the oil industry in Chad on behalf of giant energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co., a private Shanghai-based company. In Uganda, in addition to oil and infrastructure, CEFC was to build a tourism theme park near Lake Victoria on land allocated by Gen. Museveni and to acquire a financial institution named Crane Bank. CEFC also was to create joint venture enterprises with Museveni’s and Kutesa’s families, the USA alleges.
Jeremic testified that after his term expired as PGA he signed a consultancy agreement with CEFC and was paid $333,333 annually to help connect the oil giant, through Ho, to people like Deby and Kutesa. In court today Jeremic was shown photos of Kutesa and the Ugandan’s chief of staff when he was PGA, Arthur Kafeero, on a huge courtroom screen. He identified the two men’s photos and spelled out their names before jurors.
Prosecutors asked Jeremic to provide details about numerous e-mail messages he exchanged with Ho, discussing business ventures. Many of the ventures were on behalf of CEFC although some e-mail messages discussed deals where Ho and Jeremic would bypass CEFC and share the commission 50-50.
Jeremic testified that he helped CEFC secure major business deals in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. President Deby’s name and Kutesa’s started appearing in e-mail messages exchanged between Ho and Jeremic in September 2014. At the time, Kutesa, already involved in scores of corruption scandals, had just assumed his post as PGA after surviving an online petition campaign signed by 15,695 people seeking to block him from taking the post.
In one of the e-mail messages Ho informed Jeremic that CEFC was eager to enter the oil industry in Chad and needed “endorsement of the chief,” referring to Deby. Jeremic informed Ho that he didn’t personally know Deby but testified that he reached out to Cheikh Tidiane Gaido, Senegal’s former foreign minister who was well connected to several African presidents.
Gaido originally was arrested with Ho in December 2017 and charged with accepting $400,000 in bribe money to arrange the connection to Deby. The USA has since dropped charges against Gaido and he will testify against Ho.
Efforts to talk to the Foreign Affairs minister were futile as his phone went unanswered.