Contrast the global scrutiny that’s now faced by Isabela dos Santos with the royal treatment being accorded a confirmed African kleptocrat, Uganda’s Gen. Yoweri Museveni.
Dos Santos faces a barrage of attacks and criminal investigations and possible charges following revelations reported in The New York Times from the “Luanda leaks” that several Western accounting firms and consultants aided and abetted her schemes that led to alleged theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from Angola.
On the other hand, Gen. Museveni, the militarist ruler of 34 years was in London this week attending the U.K-Africa Summit and claimed he's now on a crusade to fight corruption.
Ever since he was exposed in 2018 in a U.S. court trial as a corrupt tyrant, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s militarist ruler, has been on a public relations campaign to prove that he’s serious about “fighting” corruption.
Museveni recently participated in a widely mocked “march against corruption” in Uganda.
How can a confirmed kleptoctrat fight corruption?
If Gen. Museveni were indeed serious, he would surrender at the nearest police station. He would take his foreign minister and in-law, Sam Kutesa, with him.
In a U.S. federal court trial in December 2018, a Chinese national was convicted of paying a bribe of $1m, which was split between Museveni and Kutesa on behalf of a Chinese company for business concessions including in the oil industry. Other incentives for the corrupt duo was a promise of joint venture companies with the families of Museveni and Kutesa and the Chinese company, CEFC China Energy.
Yet, this week, both Museveni and Kutesa, who is peerless in the annals of Uganda’s corruption scandals, were in London attending the U.K-Africa Summit hosted by British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Museveni told scores of potential investors during one gathering that opportunities abound given that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement officially launches in July. The historic agreement lowers tariffs across the continent and will boost by billions of dollars intra-Africa trade and create economies of scale.
Museveni, the shameless cynic, warned that with increased opportunities come more temptation for corruption. Taking bribes from potential investors to facilitate business transactions was a no-no, he said. He claimed he’d been cracking down and that he recently arrested some corrupt officials. He didn’t reveal that these were small fish and that their arrest was a public relations gimmick.
Here are some of the things the pathological liar did not tell his audience.
In March 2019, the Chinese national and former Hong Kong Home Affairs minister, Chi-Ping Patrick Ho, was sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Loretta A. Preska of U.S. Federal District Court in Manhattan. He was convicted in December 2018, following a jury trial, of paying a $1m bribe split between Gen. Museveni and foreign minister Kutesa.
The bribe payment was on behalf of CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based company, for concessions in the oil industry and for other businesses including in tourism; construction of a China-Town themed casino on an island in Lake Victoria; and infrastructure construction. The CEFC plan to form joint venture companies with the families of Gen. Museveni and Kutesa would further enriching the corrupt pair. During the one-week trial blown-up photographs of Museveni and Kutesa were on display in the courtroom for jurors. Museveni’s photograph was labelled Government Exhibit 1510 17 Cr. 779 (LAP), while Kutesa’s was labelled Government Exhibit 1504 Cr. 779 (LAP).
The trial was widely covered although, conspicuously, it was ignored by the BBC which seems to have a cosy relationship with the Ugandan dictator. He is supported by the U.K with aid from British taxpayers’ money so that could explain the BBC news blackout. Whether by design or not, British taxpayers have been kept in the dark about the true nature of Museveni and his regime when it comes to corruption. Likewise, the U.K business community are not able to adequately assess the risks involved in dealings with Museveni and his officials.
Soliciting and accepting bribes are certainly crimes. How does a major media company conclude that this is not relevant information for British taxpayers, including businesses?
The focus of The New York Times' story on the “The Luanda Leaks” is on how Western accounting firms and consultancies helped billionaire Isabel dos Santos in her alleged embezzlement. Her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos was president of Angola for 38 years from 1979 to 2017.
The cases of Museveni and Kutesa demonstrate clearly that the Western establishment routinely aid and abet corruption in Africa.
Museveni has ruled Uganda for 34 years, having rigged multiple elections. He and chief capo and in-law, foreign minister Kutesa —who’s been in the same post for 15 years— have both been implicated in past corruption scandals. Museveni was alleged to have accepted a bribe from ENI and Kutesa from Tullow Oil company, which the companies denied; Tullow is in the process of selling off its interest in Uganda’s oil business due to unrelated matters.
Kutesa was also implicated in the theft of $27m from funds set aside when Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in 2007. The U.K Government shortly after had considered revoking Kutesa’s visa and was expected to ask for U.S. support according to a cable from the U.S Embassy in Uganda. The cable said the British had also considered barring other Ugandan officials and that the “primary target is Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa…” whose corruption the American embassy considered “...egregious…”
Kutesa was involved in another major theft revealed by this media outlet Black Star News. He took the helm as President of the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. It turns out Kutesa had billed the U.N about $30m in the preceding five years before he took that job, through his private company, Entebbe Handling Services (Enhas). He was the owner of the company even while Uganda’s foreign minister. Enhas had contracts to handle operations associated with the U.N’s peacekeeping in East and Central Africa. This means when Uganda invaded Congo, as it did multiple times, and South Sudan, there were additional U.N operations. Kutesa’s company made more money as a result of the wars instigated by Museveni and Kutesa. More deaths in Congo and Sudan meant more U.N missions and billings for Kutesa's Enhas company.
Kutesa had clear conflict of interest and the U.N never would have awarded Enhas the contract had he informed it of his ownership. When this publication confronted the U.N with the evidence of Kutesa’s deception, and therefore fraudulent billings of about $30m, the U.N removed the links to the invoices paid out to Enhas from its website. The U.N also declined to reveal whether it has tried to recover funds from Enhas. The U.S. contributes more than one-third to the U.N’s operations, meaning at least $10m of the money stolen by Kutesa belongs to American taxpayers.
Here’s how the CEFC bribe to Museveni and Kutesa evolved.
Kutesa met Patrick Ho while he was the General Assembly president. Ho operated an NGO at the United Nations, which was a front for him to develop relations with diplomats like Kutesa. Ho was wined and dined at Kutesa’s official residence in New York and eventually the pair developed their corrupt enterprise. Kutesa boasted to Ho that Museveni was his in-law, court documents in the December 2018 trial, revealed.
Kutesa’s cut of the $1m bribe was wired to him through a New York bank branch into his account in Uganda, in 2016, giving the U.S jurisdiction. By that time Kutesa’s term had ended as General Assembly president and he’d returned to Uganda. After Museveni stole the 2016 vote from Dr Kizza Besigye, candidate for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), he invited Ho for his swearing-in. Ho flew in to Uganda in a Gulf-stream jet accompanied by other CEFC executives to meet Museveni, Kutesa, and other Ugandan officials including in the oil industry. He also brought with him $500,000 in cash wrapped as “gifts” for Gen. Museveni, the federal jury trial in New York found. Kutesa’s wife Edith helped Ho and his delegations clear custom with the “gifts” documents at the trial, showed.
With the conviction and sentencing of Ho, you’d think some major corporate honchos would want to stay as far away from Gen. Museveni as possible, unless aiding and abetting corruption are indeed part of their business model. TOTAL is negotiating with the Ugandan dictator and in December the CEO, Patrick Pouyanne, flew to Uganda to meet with Museveni. The Chinese government reportedly detained Ye Jianming the CEO of CEFC China Energy, the company that bribed Museveni and Kutesa. Yet, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is negotiating with Museveni. The U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, also lobbied Museveni on behalf of American business interests in Uganda’s oil sector, disregarding her own government’s case against Ho for bribing the dictator she wanted to conclude a deal with. Malac boasted of calling the dictator a dozen times to lobby him.
Museveni bargains off Uganda’s national assets with no legislative oversight by Uganda’s Parliament. He is a law unto himself. No wonder he and Kutesa accept bribes along the way. How does TOTAL’s CEO Pouyanne justify his dealings with Museveni to the company’s shareholders, especially now, after the “Luanda leaks” expose of Western collusion in corruption in Africa? How does he justify this to TOTAL’s board of directors?
Gen. Museveni was not forthcoming with the whole truth in his business pitch with potential investors in London this week.
Ugandans in London held protests against his visit – calling for a travel ban – but not a single reporter confronted him and Kutesa about the $1m bribe from Ho. A kleptocrat can’t fight corruption.
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