MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire in panic over money laundering

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MTN Uganda Chairman Mbire is in panic over money laundering. The evidence shows that Foreign Funds were wired via Mobile Money to Uganda a thing that triggered investigations for security purposes

There were reports that the Chairman of MTN Uganda, Charles Mbire was to be quizzed by a joint team of security officials over the telecom top officials’ alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Rumors had it that Mr. Mbire, was to be questioned on the alleged involvement of MTN’s top officials in the creation of special mobile money accounts through which funds were channeled to facilitate subversive activities in Uganda.

“As the chairman of the telecom, his complicity is a subject of investigation. He will appear before police and other security organs for questioning,” said a senior officer briefed about this development.

Earlier this month Police summoned top MTN Uganda officials including Ms Elisa Musolini, the general manager, Mobile Money on charges of “incitement to violence” and Musolini was immediately deported back to Italy.

“Investigations are being conducted into the above underlined allegation of which some employees of MTN (U) are a subject of these investigations,” the summonses signed by Elly Womanya on behalf of CID Director, Grace Akullo, read in part.

According to classified information, MTN Uganda officials are alledged to have received funds from foreign countries which they wired through mobile money accounts to facilitate the political mobilization of Bobi Wine alias Robert Kyagulanyi.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” said a security officer briefed on the probe.

“The MTN top shots will have to explain their motive. Ignorance is no defence because we have compelling evidence of complicity.”

The suspicious transactions of large sums of money sent to mobile money accounts of opposition figures were intercepted last year at the peak of Bobi Wine’s activities which included processions.
Security got suspicious after realizing that Bobi Wine was able to sustain a large team of aides and also spend heavily on fuel, food, hotel accommodation, media and facilitation during by-elections especially in Bugiri and Arua.

Bobi Wine is a wealthy businessman but an investigation discovered he was spending almost Shs 5m per day during by-elections which he used to popularize his brand. This, it was concluded, was not commensurate with his known earnings.

A deeper probe found that Bobi’s associates were receiving funds from foreign countries including Rwanda which would be channeled through MTN mobile accounts.

It’s also understood that MTN marketing manager Olivier Prentout, who was also arrested and deported  was part of the telecom officials who facilitated the production of a popular advert ‘Bosco’ which was quickly exploited by the opposition to mock Museveni who was popularizing drip irrigation.

Museveni would use a bicycle to carry water to his demonstration farm.

As soon as the ‘Bosco’ advert was released by MTN, Ugandans were quick to use it to describe Museveni as Bosco.

And during his music concerts, Bobi Wine used the name Bosco to ridicule Museveni.

Security believes this was a carefully planned campaign against Museveni. It’s said Prentout also provided promotional support to Bobi Wine’s activities.

Additionally, officials said information was leaked to government late last year as top officials fought over money and media budgets.

A source said MTN General Manager in charge of Corporate Services, Anthony Katamba was told by MTN South Africa that renewal of his contract was hinged on his ability to secure renewal of MTN Uganda’s license. The license would have been renewed last year but the matter was never resolved.

Katamba is blamed for delaying negotiations with UCC, forcing ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze to provide an interim license of 60 days to avoid a “regulatory vacuum” as negotiations were being expedited.

Katamba also is said to have positioned himself to take over as MTN Managing Director, a move that saw him clash with his subordinates in a bitter power struggle.

As the top shots fought, information leaked to security services.

“Those who believe Katamba should not take over leaked information to authorities on what has been happening at MTN Uganda,” said a source.

In response, Katamba is said to have volunteered information in his defence, leading to exposure of his colleagues.

MTN’s 20-year license expired on October 20, 2018.

Late last year, the telecom obtained a 60-day extension from UCC which ended on January 20, 2019. MTN’s license is yet to be renewed.

Mbire’s public profile shows he serves as the Chairman of Uganda Board of Bayport Financial Services Pty Ltd; Chairman ESKOM Uganda Limited, Afro-Alpine Pharma Limited, Invesco Uganda Limited and Nilecom Limited.

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