11 March 2018

Uganda: China Arrests Top Suspect in Kutesa Bribery Affair

Photo: The Observer
Ye Jianming, right, with Sam Kutesa. Ye was arrested on the orders of China's president.

The founder and owner of a company which allegedly offered bribes to African leaders, including Uganda's foreign minister Sam Kutesa, in return for business favours, has been arrested in China, reports show.

According to the South China Morning Post, Ye Jianming, the Shanghai-based China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC) firm owner, was arrested for questioning at the start of this month.

His detention follows the November 21, 2017 arrest in New York of Hong Kong's former Home Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping on charges of routing bribes for African government officials through US financial institutions. Ye, a little-known but wealthy entrepreneur, employed Ho.

The paper reported that Ho, 68, was leading a life of what he called "civil diplomacy" since his retirement from Hong Kong's public service. He headed a think tank called the China Energy Fund Committee.

Among those Ho allegedly bribed was Kutesa, who was at the time president of the UN General Assembly. Kutesa has denied receiving any such bribe. The arrest of Ye turns the spotlight on the way the company did its businesses.

Ye's detention in China was ordered directly by Chinese president Xi Jinping, according to South China Morning Post.

Ye established CEFC in 2002 when he was in his mid-20s, and the company had spent at least $1.7 billion since 2015 buying energy-related businesses in Romania, the UAE, Russia and Chad, said the South China Morning Post report.

The CEFC allegedly offered a $2 million bribe to Chad's president Idriss Deby in exchange for valuable oil rights and $500,000 to Kutesa for an energy deal in Uganda's nascent oil sector.

"Ho also provided the Ugandan foreign minister... with gifts and promises of future benefits, including offering to share the profits of a potential joint venture in Uganda involving the energy company and businesses owned by the families of the Ugandan foreign minister and the president of Uganda," said a US Department of Justice statement on November 20, 2017.

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