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Pandora papers: Jim Muhwezi on the spot for hiding his wealth in offshore accounts and tax haven

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Uganda’s Security Minister Jim Muhwezi has been named among global leaders hiding their accumulated wealth in offshore accounts and tax havens.

Jim Muhwezi is related by marriage to Uganda’s longtime President Yoweri Museveni. In 2021, Museveni appointed him Security Minister, granting him power over the country’s widely feared security apparatus.

A former guerilla fighter, Muhwezi served as Uganda’s spy chief before being elected to parliament in 1996 and awarded a junior ministerial position. In 2001, he became minister of health, a position he held until 2006. The following year, a Ugandan court charged Muhwezi with embezzling money donated for children’s vaccines. He denied wrongdoing and was acquitted. Muhwezi served as minister of information from 2015 to 2016, when he lost his parliamentary seat. He was re-elected to parliament in 2021.

Muhwezi owned and held shares in two shell companies.

In February 2015, Muhwezi became one of three shareholders of the British Virgin Islands company Audley Holdings Ltd. The company’s directors authorized it to manage bank accounts in Europe.

In 2015, an Israeli businessman sued Muhwezi’s co-shareholders in a Ugandan court, disputing the transfer of shares in a similarly-named company, Audley Ltd, which owns two casinos in Uganda. The lawsuit did not name Muhwezi, and the court later ruled to stop the share transfer. Audley Holding Ltd. is the holding company of Audley Ltd. in Uganda, a company shareholder told ICIJ media partner, The Daily Monitor.

Regulators closed Audley Holdings Ltd in 2016 for failing to pay registration fees. But in 2018, the Panamanian law firm Alcogal, which set up the company, reported Audley Holdings and its shareholders, including Muhwezi, to BVI regulators in a suspicious activity report after a database search revealed the eleven-year-old embezzlement allegations against him. Alcogal told regulators it resigned as the BVI’s company’s registered agent.

Under BVI law, 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 Muhwezi as a client in 2015.

Alcogal said that it complies with requirements where it operates and “performs enhanced due diligence on a client who is determined to be a high-risk customer, regardless of the nature of the relationship or service.”

Muhwezi also owned Sukari Loma Investment Holdings Ltd, created in Cyprus in 2013 through the offshore provider SFM. The company provided “financial services,” Muhwezi wrote on a signed beneficial owner statement, adding that its funds came from “salary savings” and his hotel and radio stations. It was closed in 2015.

When contacted by an ICIJ reporter, Muhwezi said, “I don’t know what you are talking about and I can’t make any reply.”

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