ENTEBBE, Uganda: The potential culprits, who have heard about the President’s fury and vows to wipe out corruption once and for all, are living in great fear after a list of corrupt cabinet ministers and top government officials has reached the First Citizen’s desk.
The dossier naming those who have been soliciting bribes from investors and local business gurus, has reached the fountain of honor and the majority, as we file this report, are busy consulting top city pastors and witch doctors for miraculous havens, the Investigator can authoritatively report.
Following the arrest of two Ministry of Finance officials, Charles Ogol, the Principal Finance Officer, and Geoffrey Turyamuhika, a Senior Economist on the orders of President Museveni last week, the Investigator has established that the president after a meeting with the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura at State House Entebbe vowed to pump in more resources in investigations to have the corrupt officials nabbed and prosecuted. The two finance officers were nabbed by officers attached to the SFC (Special Forces Command) on explicit orders of the President as they tried to solicit for a USD 500,000 (Shs1.8b) bribe from an investor.
Shortly, a week later, Labor State Minister and Rukiga MP Herbert Kabafunzaki was also arrested at the Serena Hotel in Kampala as he, reportedly picked a Shs5M bribe from Hamid Mohammed, the proprietor of Aya Hilton Hotel. Just like the arrests of the two Finance officers, Kabafunzaki’s arrests were also ordered by the President after Hamid made a personal call to him.
We can reveal that after the minister was nabbed, Museveni was so more ‘furious’. A close presidential aide revealed to us how perturbed the President was and ordered for a hot line to be instituted where, all complaints regarding ministers and top government officials demanding for bribes can be channeled. “It is overwhelming the number of complaints we have received so far. The President is personally interested and takes most of the time at night scrutinizing the list and complaints from the scores of foreign investors,” said the tight source on anonymity condition.
When President Museveni mentioned last year that this is Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo, majority took it for a joke. The Investigator has reliably learnt that as per April 12th 2017, names of 32 State and Cabinet Ministers (14 and 18 respectively) had been mentioned by investors saying they either demanded for bribes, received or blocked investments due to failure to pay the bribes. (The Investigator will publish the entire list after thorough investigations in our next series).
According to our source, the investors reported to the president how the ministers, RDCs, Members of Parliament, Committee Members of Parliament and other government ministry officials have frustrated their efforts to kick-start their investments. “It is pathetic. An investor who has a capital of USD5-10M is demanded a bribe of USD3-5m. How will they survive,” wondered the presidential aide.
The Investigator has learnt that President Museveni has constituted a panel of top security aides and investigators to handle the complaints. We are sure very soon the pending cabinet reshuffle will not leave the ministers safe, that is if they are not charged and remanded to Luzira like Herbert Kabafunzaki. (He however was today released on a cash bail of shs5m and his diplomatic passport and land title deposited as security).
How they do it
According to the complaints the investors made to the president, the corrupt ministers and government officials demand for bribes to help them secure land, quick trading licenses and tax holidays from government. Others demand for hefty sums promising to connect the investors to the president. Some have demanded for foreign trips to China, South Africa, Dubai, UK and elsewhere. The investors have invested heavily in financing their air-tickets, accommodation, meals, shopping, and per-diems for the officials and their girlfriends or spouses.
The list that we have seen indicates sectors as Energy, Works, Education, Petroleum, Trade, Finance, Telecommunications, information and Communication among others are the most ‘juicy’ ones through which targeting the prone investors is handy. Though we managed to talk to a few of the affected money gurus after securing the list, most are still living in fear. “Boss I can’t talk much. These ministers are big. They are armed and can do anything. I can only talk when they have been arrested may be,” said one timid investor.
The investors affected most are Chinese, Malaysians, Taiwanese, Russians, and some from UK, Germany and the United States. Others who complained are from South Africa, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Ukraine, and UAE among others. One investor revealed to us how a minister collaborating with some State Hose Officials fleeced USD1m (shs3.6b) promising to have a meeting with the President.
Where they keep their loot
After scrutinizing the list, we sought to dig deeper on the assets of the affected ministers and government officials. The daunting task involved getting details of their bank accounts. But what we discovered was that the ‘sharp’ officials didn’t want to lose their ill earned cash to government. The Investigator dug out that out of the 18 cabinet ministers, at least 10 banked their ill gotten cash in offshore accounts. Others have invested in real estate across the country.
People use offshore banking for various reasons. The most popular is tax evasion, but money laundering or asset hiding are high on the list as well. Strictly speaking, these reasons don’t always have to be illegal, but their morality is often questionable, and political leaders that resort to these measures are often exposed to the public rage, as the Prime Ministers of Iceland and Ukraine, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk learned in the recent weeks.
Using our insiders at the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) to dig up the ‘thieves’ accounts, we went down to work. Using the FSI tool, we were in position to determine which countries, through their banking regulation, offer tax havens to the rich and wealthy (and often criminal) elite.
The Investigator did a tight research on the top offshore accounts in the world. Our search using highly placed FSI sources revealed that majority of the ‘sharp’ ministers have their cash stashed in foreign accounts in Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, USA, Panama, Luxembourg, Lebanon, UAE, Channel Islands, and Cayman Islands.
Top cabinet ministers have huge sums of money in banks in Singapore. We discovered this is due to the combination of a high number of trustworthy banks and high FSI. The top three nations, Singapore, Switzerland and Hong-kong have established themselves as global financial centers. Switzerland’s famous secrecy laws regarding banking have secured its leading position among countries that attract the most offshore accounts. Hong kong, one of the largest financial centers in the world, is favored by top corrupt Ugandan government officials due to its ambiguous status as a crown colony under the UK jurisdiction.
We dug out that just a few accounts are held in Luxembourg. Luxembourg to those who don’t know yet is a microstate, wedged between Germany, Belgium, and France. It is the largest tax haven in EU. Similar to Switzerland, their success is based on secrecy. Whistleblowers can easily end up in jail in Luxemburg. In our investigations, we un-earthed that top Muslim government officials and Muslims prefer to keep their ‘loot’ in Moslem states such as Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Lebanon may be a strange addition to this list to people who aren’t familiar with this country. Lebanese diaspora is estimated to number anywhere between 5 and 16 million people, some of which are very high-profile businessmen, like Carlos Smith, Carlos Ghosn (CEO of Renault), and Nicholas Hayek (CEO of Swatch). Lebanon has made it possible for all of them to keep their money in their home country by lax banking regulation.
In the US, we discovered that the top corrupt officials took advantage of the laxed laws in two of America States. Delaware and Nevada are the two states that have done their utmost to bend their banking laws to ensure the flow of foreign capital. Dubai’s bank accounts had quite some cash in names of top government officials. We found out that the oil rich nation that has established itself as a premier offshore banking location, conveniently situated on the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa and its free port, has played a crucial role in creating Dubai’s reputation of “no questions asked” business hub, a fact often exploited by people with a desire to keep their wealth undetected.
In our next episode, we unveil the names, the bank accounts and the funds…as we un-earth the dung… watch this space.