By our reporter
Uganda’s foreign minister and former president of the United Nations General Assembly during its 2014-2015 session, Sam Kahamba Kutesa, created a company offshore to evade taxes, reveals investigation titled Paradise Papers by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The investigation which partners with Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor says Mr Kutesa, a wealthy and powerful politician in the poor East African country formed a company in tax haven, Seycheless.
The investigation published on the website https://offshoreleaks.icij.org says “Kutesa created the Obuyonza Discretionary Trust in the Seychelles in 2012. The trust held shares in the Seychelles company Katonga Investments Ltd.”
Although Mr Kuteesa denies using this organization, the Paradise papers investigation says the foreign minister “created the trust, watched over its administration and was one of its beneficiaries.”
The investigation also pin Kutesa’s daughter, Ishta, listed “as a beneficial owner as well as a future recipient of money from the trust”.
According to an internal Appleby document from 2015, the company’s intended activities were “consultancy, investments, trading and airport services in Uganda.”
The investigation says the money for Katonga was to come from Enhas Uganda Ltd., another Kutesa entity, Appleby’s notes state. Kutesa has owned Enhas, a ground-handling service at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, since the 1990s.
In 1998, a Ugandan parliamentary committee named Kutesa and another co-owner in a report criticizing the privatization that helped create Enhas and led to its lucrative airport contract. The report concluded that the privatization had been “manipulated and taken advantage of by a few politically powerful people who sacrifice the people’s interests.”
As part of a periodic review in 2015, Appleby labeled Kutesa’s companies a “high risk,” given his political role and media reports of alleged corruption and bribery involving Kutesa. Kutesa told Appleby that the purpose of the trust was to separate his government income “from his personal assets and belongings.” In 2015, however, Appleby noted that the companies connected to the trust were dormant and that “it seems that nothing such is being done.”
Whereas Kutesa admits that he established the companies however he denies being motivated with cheating taxes.
“I have never done anything with it at all. I told Appleby to close it many years ago.” He said he had registered a company in Uganda and is paying taxes. “I thought you could avoid, not evade, taxes but I found it was not practical, and unnecessary,” Kutesa told the Daily Monitor. “I don’t have anything to hide.”
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists website which published the revelations including other powerful people across the globe makes a disclaimer on its opening page.
“There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of more than 190 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.
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