U.S. Justice Department accuses Sam Kutesa of receiving bribe from Chinese businessman

Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s foreign minister and former President of the U.N. General Assembly, is accused of taking a bribe from a Chinese businessman by the U.S. Justice Department.

Sam Kahamba Kutesa, Uganda’s foreign minister, was bribed by a Chinese businessman in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company, according to an unsealed complaint released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

According to the complaint, Chi Ping Patrick Ho and Cheik Gadio, the former foreign minister of Senegal, are accused of participating in a “multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company (the “Energy Company”).”

Patrick Ho allegedly paid a $500,000 (Shs1.8 billion) bribe to Mr Kutesa so he could assist the Energy Company to obtain business advantages, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank. The scheme was hatched in the halls of the United Nations in New York – Mr Kutesa was at the time the President of the U.N. General Assembly – and the bribe wired by Patrick Ho through a bank in New York to Mr Kutesa’s account in Kampala.

According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, Mr Kutesa and Mr Ho met in October 2014 at the UN in New York where the former had recently begun his term as the 69th President of the UN General Assembly.

Mr Kutesa was cultivated by Mr Ho in the year he was at the UN, with the two discussing “a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and the Energy Company for various business ventures”. The partnership would be formed once the Mr Kutesa’s term at the UN expired and he was back in Uganda, according to the release.

“In or about February 2016 – after the Ugandan foreign minister had resumed his role as foreign minister of Uganda, and his in-law had been reelected as the President of Uganda – the Ugandan Foreign Minister solicited a payment from Ho, purportedly for a charitable foundation that he wished to launch,” the release said.

It adds: “Ho caused a $500,000 payment to be wired to an account in Uganda designated by the Ugandan foreign minister, through a bank in New York, New York. In his communications, HO variously referred to this payment as a “donation” to the reelection campaign of the President of Uganda (who had already been reelected) and as a “donation” to “support” the Ugandan foreign minister.”

But the 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,” the statement said.

The Justice Department further accuses Mr Ho of providing Mr Kutesa and “the President of Uganda” with “promises of future benefits, including proposing to partner with both officials’ family businesses in potential joint ventures.

“In exchange, the Ugandan Foreign Minister assisted the Energy Company in obtaining business in Uganda, including by facilitating the Energy Company’s interest in potentially acquiring a bank.”

Patrick Ho, 68, from Hong Kong and Gadio, were arrested on Saturday and Friday respectively, and presented before courts in New York. They are each charged with conspiring to violate the United State’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), violating the FCPA, conspiring to commit international money laundering, and committing international money laundering.

Mr Gadio, who operated an international consulting firm, is accused of assisting Mr Ho to offer a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad “in exchange for securing business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to obtain valuable oil rights from the Chadian government.” Mr Gadio was then paid $400,000 by Mr Ho via wires transmitted through New York city.

The two arrested individuals “were allegedly willing to throw money at the leaders of two countries to bypass the normal course of business, but didn’t realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the release.

He added: “The FBI, our partners in the IRS and the law enforcement community work diligently day after day to protect the integrity of our financial institutions, and stop foreign entities corrupting international commerce.”

Mr Sweeney’s statement is backed up by plenty of examples. In 2015 the U.S. Justice Department indicted and caused the arrests of several Fifa officials on corruption allegations. Although most of the arrested officials were not American citizens, the “crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”

The officials were later extradited to the United States to stand trial.