The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the spotlight after one of its senior officials got implicated in a corruption scandal in which the Government of Equatorial Guinea is said to have lost over six hundred thousand United States Dollars ($600,000) in a grossly inflated purchase of property transaction.
According to sources, the Equatorial Guinea government had advanced USD2M (About Shs7bn) for this purpose. However, it is alleged the house ended up costing between USD1.3M to 1.7M. An official in the office of the Chief of Protocol is said to have illicitly obtained two hundred fifty thousand United States Dollars ($250,000) in the transaction.
The property in question is a residential building on Plot No. 31 Mackenzie Vale in Kololo which was recently “purchased” by the Government of Equatorial Guinea to house its Embassy in Kampala. We have also learnt that the title to the property has not yet been transferred to the Embassy and that the Uganda Land Commission, from which the lease was obtained did not give its consent and may not be officially aware of the transaction.
The property was sold on 5th February, 2021 but the ministry of Foreign Affairs approved the deal on 23RD February which is against the Diplomatic and Consular Property Conventions Act.
URA has also written to the concerned officials to furnish them with all information related to the transaction. Whereas the property was sold at USD1.7Million, real estate agents say the property’s (in 30 decimals) value is around USD900, 000. Equatorial Guinea has also asked for a full report and the official who handled the transaction on their behalf has also been recalled. Officials at Foreign Affairs are also on spot for issuing a diplomatic letter allowing some officials in transaction to take cash through Entebbe Airport. The source of information relating to the corruption scandal is a detailed letter addressed to officials at the ministry of foreign affairs and Regional Cooperation.
The letter is also variously copied to the Inspector General of Police, Office of the President, State House of Uganda – Anti Corruption Unit, the Inspector General of Government.Dated April 05, 2021, the letter not only registers a complaint but also constitutes a whistleblowers dossier exposing the syndicated under-the-counter dealings. The complainants/whistleblowers are real estate consultants/agents by occupation.
The two initiated and brokered the sale and as such have intimate knowledge of and facts relating to the criminal enterprise that progressively overshadowed the entire transaction. The transaction in question involved a foreign national who is an envoy, the property owner (lessee) and seller on the one hand and a Secretary at the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea in Kampala on the other hand.
GENESIS According to the letter, in December 2020, in the course of their work, the two property agents learnt that the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea in Kampala was scouting for a built property in the upscale suburbs of Kololo which it would convert into a Chancery (i.e. official premises of the Embassy). The Agents contacted a range of property owners.
After a series of engagements with the Agents, the seller agreed to offer his property on terms one of which was that his last price would be one million two hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,200,000). The asking price was set at one million three hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,300,000). At this point, the seller had not been made aware of who the intending purchaser was. The property in question is in Leasehold Register Volume 2362 Folio 3and sits on approximately 0.117 hectares (about 30 decimals) of land. The lease has only twenty-seven (27) years to run. Another point of agreement was that the seller would pay 3% of the selling price as Commission Fee to the Agents. The Agents set about preparing a Sales Commission Contract which would be executed to seal the points of agreement between them and the intending seller. He agreed to receive the draft Contract by email.
The property owner also granted them permission to take the intending buyer (yet unknown to him) on an inspection visit of the property. On December 11, 2020, the Agents got in touch with a secretary of the Embassy and conducted him around the property for inspection (photographic evidence of his initial visit to the property is available). The secretary was impressed with the property and the seller’s price. According to him, it met all the prescribed standards of suitability and the budget allocation for procurement of a grand Chancery would accommodate the price.
It is reported that the Government of Equatorial Guinea had allocated two million United States Dollars ($ 2,000,000)to the Embassy to procure property for purposes of a diplomatic mission (Chancery). Thus impressed, the secretary advised the Agents that he was satisfied with the property and did not have to inspect other properties. This property alone would make the list. He then asked to see the property owner to make his acquaintance and hold preliminary discussions. He also advised the agents that he would meet an official in the office of chief of protocol that very day and brief him about this finding. He stressed that that official was involved in the hunt for property and that all matters were reserved for his advice. The Agents advised him that should the Embassy make a decision to procure the property, the Agents would receive in payment a finder’s Commission Fee (5% of the sale price).
On December 13, 2020 the agents arranged at the secretary’s request a meeting with the seller. The meeting was held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Nakasero. Before that meeting, however, the agents had taken trouble to inform the seller that the intended buyer (still unknown to the seller) was satisfied with the property and the price quotation. The property would most certainly be procured. The Agents insisted that the seller sign the Sales Commission Agreement between the Agents and him. This had been sent to his email address. Their expectation therefore was that during this meeting, beyond making acquaintance with the secretary and holding preliminary talks, the seller and the Agents would execute the Sales Commission Agreement. It is at the meeting that the property owner first became aware of the fact that the intending purchaser was the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea. The seller and the secretary exchanged contacts at the meeting.
The Agents presented the Sales Commission Agreement to the property owner having signed their part. On this occasion however, the seller did not sign the agreement, advising that he needed time to study and digest the text. This meeting was critical for three other reasons. Firstly, at this meeting, the Foreign Affairs official made it clear that another meeting would have to be arranged the same day with the official in the chief of protocols office in attendance. Up to this point, the Agents had not seen or met him in person. The seller, much to the delight of the secretary, mentioned that he knew the official and was friends with him. Secondly, during the progression of deliberations, the secretary requested the Agents to leave the meeting place for a while so he could have a private conversation with the seller.
The Agents went outside of the meeting place and left the two together for some time. They were not called back to the meeting. Instead, the secretary emerged out of the meeting place and advised the Agents that he and the seller would have another decisive meeting with the Chief of Protocol later in the day. Thirdly and most importantly, when the Agents went in to see the seller (following the departure of the secretary), he informed them that the secretary had mooted a proposal to the effect of which would be an upward revision of the purchase price. He had indicated to the seller that there were many parties to “take care of,” including Ministers. The seller, who has a lifelong weakness for never keeping secret things secret, informed his dumbfounded listeners that the secretary had floated a deal the terms of which were that he would guarantee payment of the seller’s asking price of one million three hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,300,000) on condition that he “loads” four hundred thousand United States Dollars ($400,000).
This difference would be money to take care of various interests (including ministerial interests). Thus, the seller would officially receive in payment one million seven hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,700,000) and “kickback” four hundred thousand United States Dollars ($400,000) to the secretary and the official in the chief of protocols office to take care of “interested parties”.
The seller reportedly further informed the Agents that the secretary and the official had already discussed the nefarious idea of “loading” money onto the purchase price of whichever property was selected. What remained would be convincing an intending seller to buy into their dirty enterprise. After the initial meeting with the seller, the secretary had in fact gone directly from the meeting to brief the official about the day’s deliberations. The seller also informed them that another meeting was slated for later in the day with the protocol official in attendance.
No mention was made of the time and venue. The Agents advised the seller to carefully examine the secretary’s proposal as it would likely have consequences for the transaction especially considering that these were the funds of a sovereign government. They also spoke of the need to have the property subjected to a valuation process. The seller seemed unbothered.
In any case, to guard against the dangers of being sucked into the vortex of a future scandal, the Agents made clear to the seller that their Commission Fee would strictly be based on and a percentage of the official selling price of one million three hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,300,000). The seller received a hard copy of the Sales Commission Agreement, promising the Agents to study the text before signing. He would invite them at an appropriate time to receive the signed Agreement. Thereafter he dismissed them for the day.
This meeting would be the last time the Agents would set their eyes on the seller again before closure of the transaction. Thereafter, a series of dramatic events ensued. The seller’s general disposition toward the Agents curiously and suddenly changed. He refused to see them, often citing a busy schedule. Quite understandably, he was in Nairobi most of the time. However, it became totally impossible for the Agents to meet him over the weekends when he returned from Nairobi and during the Christmas holidays when he was in Kampala. He would neither take nor return the Agent’s calls. He thinly responded to a few text messages and messages on WhatsApp. The Agents’ sole demand at this stage of the transaction was that the seller signs his part of the Sales Commission Agreement. They were making no other demand of him.
The Agents maintained contact with the secretary who advised them that a delegation from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Equatorial Guinea would be in Kampala after the presidential and parliamentary elections to “conclude negotiations” with the seller. He also advised them that the head of this delegation, a one Ms. Maria Angeles Miaga Bibang Nsang (Secretary of State in Charge of Economic and Patrimonial Affairs in the Government of Equatorial Guinea) would be the right person to sign a Finder’s Commission Fee Agreement with the Agents and authorize the Embassy to make this payment. The secretary also advised the Agents that for purposes of adhering to procurement requirements, three other properties had been identified and added to the list of candidate properties for purchase. These, however, were mere dummies and in any case, he had submitted to his government a detailed report that favoured the property and which in equal measure disadvantaged the other properties. Finally, and most importantly, he informed them that he had the blessings of the official in the Chief of Protocol’s office in the matter. The latter would watch over the deal to its materialization. On January 25, 2021, the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing it that a delegation was due to arrive in Kampala on January 28 2020. In essence only two people comprised this delegation. This Media house has seen a copy of the said Diplomatic Note (Ref No. 016/021 of January 25, 2021).The diplomatic note also asked the Ministry to make arrangements for a meeting between the head of the delegation and Hon. Okello Oryem.
We have established that the Minister did not get to meet this delegation. On the same day, the secretary contacted the Agents on the phone. He informed them that the visiting duo would inspect all the four properties but this was a mere ritual as in fact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Equatorial Guinea was already taken with the good report highlighting the primacy and suitability of the property. He assured them that both the seller and the Embassy were committed to meeting their financial obligations toward the Agents for their labour and services. Most importantly, the secretary requested the Agents to be present at the property in the afternoon to receive the delegation and conduct them around. Photographic and video evidence shows that the Agents were on the property and indeed received the party and conducted them around for inspection. Curiously, on this very day, the seller who was in Nairobi got in touch with one of the Agents and asked him to ensure all went well. He advised the Agent that he would be in Kampala in a few days’ time and would commit to his obligations by signing the Sales Commission Agreement. What prompted this call may have been fear on the seller’s part of what the Agents might say or do during the inspection tour to disadvantage the property if they had serious doubts about his intentions since he was yet to sign the Agreement. In Fact he sent a copy of the property’s title deed to the Agent on WhatsApp so he could print and present it to the delegation as well as to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.After the party inspected this and other properties, the Agents did not hear again from the secretary nor did they get to meet the seller when he flew into the country to conclude the transaction. In another bizarre turn of events, on February 5, 2021, at the rented premises of the Embassy Wampewo Avenue, Fumu Close, the seller and the secretary (on behalf of the Embassy) signed a Sale of Land Agreement in respect of the property on Plot No. 31 Mackenzie Vale in Kololo. There had been no negotiations whatsoever. The Agreement had been discreetly and hurriedly prepared. We have gained access to a copy of the signed Agreement.
The purchase price of the property was, as previously agreed, one million seven hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,700,000). The Agreement was signed around midday. In the late afternoon of the same day, the secretary presented to his bank (Ecobank, Parliament Avenue) a letter authorizing the bank to transfer (by RTGS) the amount of one million seven hundred thousand United States Dollars ($1,700,000) from the Embassy account (7170006729) to the seller’s account. We have gained access to a copy of this letter authorizing transfer of funds which is also a document attached to the Agents’ letter. It is worth mentioning that the seller flew into Uganda from Nairobi on the same day that the Agreement was signed…D
DON’T MISS PART OF THE STORY ON HOW THE CASH WAS WITHDRAWN, SOME TAKEN OUT OF THE COUNTRY THROUGH ENTEBBE AIRPORT. AND WHY FOREIGN AFFAIRS BOSS, THE ENVOY AND THE SECRETARY OF THE OIL RICH COUNTRY IS IN TROUBLE.