October 20, 2021

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Pandora Papers: Jim Muhwezi named in offshore millions saga

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Uganda’s Security minister, Maj Gen (Rtd) Jim Muhwezi, has also been named in the infamous Pandora Papers, a giant 2.94 terabytes leak of more than 11.9 million confidential, financial and legal records from 14 offshore service providers and enterprises that set up and manage shell companies and trusts in tax havens around the globe.

The 14 offshore service providers whose documents make up the Pandora Papers data set include three owned by former government officials.

According to the papers, Muhwezi held shares until 2015 and 2018 in two shell companies domiciled in two tax havens; the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cyprus.

The security minister was named in a cache of leaked company and financial documents as one of three shareholders of Audley Holdings Ltd registered in BVI, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean.

The alleged certificate for his shares in Audley Holdings Ltd was executed on February 3, 2015.

“This is to certify that Katugugu Jim Muhwezi is entitled to one thousand three hundred thirty-three shares (1,333) shares in the above company, subject to the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the said company.”

Other shareholders in Audley Holdings Ltd, according to the resolution of the directors, are Aaron Li Ran and Shmuel Peled, about who much less is known as individuals and relationship with Maj Gen Muhwezi, if any.

Audley Holdings Ltd’s directors authorised it to manage bank accounts in Europe. But regulators closed the company in 2016 for failing to pay registration fees.

In another turn of events, documents obtained by ICIJ reveal that Alcogal reported Audley Holdings Ltd and its shareholders to BVI regulators for sanction over a Suspicious Activity Report or SARs.

This was after their database search revealed an 11-year-old embezzlement allegation against Mr Muhwezi and co-accused, in relation to the alleged mismanagement of the Shs1.6b Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) money when he was the Health minister.

The Anti-Corruption Court acquitted him at the end of July 2012.

In the SAR dated May 25, 2018, Audley Holdings Ltd shareholders are named as Mr Muhwezi, Mr Peled, Mr Ram, and one Avraham Kalderon.

Alcogal detailed in the report that it suspected the company was used for, among others, money laundering, fraud, and tax evasion, but provided no specifics or evidence to back its claims.

The law firm, Alcogal, in its submissions to BVI authorities, indicated that it made several attempts to contact the company’s shareholders, including Maj Gen Muhwezi, but in vain.

“We received no response to our messages nor has he (Muhwezi) provided the documents or information of the company,” the SAR reads in part, adding: “Taking into consideration the non-response and lack of compliance, we have terminated our services as a Registered Agent, and have filed our resignation from the company accordingly.”

Both this newspaper and ICIJ, the coordinator of the Pandora Papers reporting project, contacted the Ugandan Security minister, but he denied any involvement and declined to discuss the allegations in detail.

“I don’t think I can give you more [information] than I gave them (ICIJ),” he told the Daily Monitor in a telephone interview.

“I cannot just talk about anything because I don’t know what you are talking about. Have you looked at the documents yourself; are they authentic?” he asked.

When further pressed that the documents in question were drawn by a law firm, Alcogal, and they were stamped and sealed, Maj Gen Muhwezi responded: “Then I will have to look at them myself.”

We shared a copy of the share certificate in the names of Audley Holdings Ltd with him via WhatsApp, but got no response.

Under the BVI laws, firms like Alcogal must keep records about their clients for five years after the business relationship ends. It’s unclear what, if any, due diligence Alcogal conducted before accepting Mr Muhwezi as a client in 2015.

Daily Monitor wrote to Alcogal on the matter, but got no response.

The cache of documents shows that Mr Muhwezi owned shares in another shell company, Sukari Loma Investment Holdings Ltd, domiciled in Cyprus, known to offer lucrative incorporation packages and offshore business services to investors.

Sukari Loma Investment Holdings Ltd was registered through Dubai-based SFM Corporate Services that specialises in offering incorporation services.

Other shareholders in the company registered to offer “financial services”, documents show, included Nicholas Siphiwe Tsepo Xaba, Sndie Hopeson Nomvete, and Emmanuel Nkosi — all South African nationals.

Maj Gen Muhwezi wrote on a signed beneficial owner statement stating that his finances came from “salary savings” and his hotel and radio stations.

The Cyprus Corporate Registry, however, details that the company was dissolved in 2015.

The BVI connection

In a separate suspicious activity report to BVI authorities, Alcogal flagged two other companies — Concierge Unique Limited and CUL Capital Ltd — both linked Avraham Kalderon as a shareholder.

Documents show that other shareholders in Concierge Unique Limited included Apostolos Voutas and Robert “Bob” Munanura Kabonero, a renowned Kampala businessman.

The law firm indicated that the company was likely involved in money laundering, fraud and tax evasion.

Concierge Unique Limited was specifically flagged, the SAR details, after establishing Mr Kabonero’s previous connection to the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of State of Government Meeting (Chogm) vehicle procurement scandal, and relation to Mr Muhwezi “as a brother-in law.”

Alcogal detailed that it unsuccessfully contacted Concierge Unique Limited for explanation and consequently resigned as a registered agent for the company in the BVI.

There are no records of the company in the local Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) registry.

CUL Capital Limited’s other shareholders, documents show, included Mr Kabonero, Maria Odido, and Murad Naoum. The company was also red flagged, the SAR details, over Mr Kabonero’s previous connection to the Chogm vehicle deal, and association to Mr Muhwezi.

Alcogal detailed that it unsuccessfully contacted CUL Capital Limited for explanation, and consequently resigned as a registered agent for the company in the BVI.

CUL Capital Limited was also incorporated locally (in Uganda), according to URSB records under the names of Naoum Murad, an Israeli national, and C.Y Kalderon Ltd. The company, however, has no known online presence nor known address.

Credit: Daily Monitor

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