Uganda drops Gilbert Bukenya CHOGM fraud charges

Gilbert Bukenya (May 2006)
Image caption Gilbert Bukenya chaired the cabinet team organising the 2007 Commonwealth summit

Uganda has dropped all charges against former Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya just days before his corruption trial was due to begin.

He was briefly jailed last month after being accused of abuse of office and fraud in connection with a Commonwealth summit in Kampala in 2007.

The charges were dropped because the government has been named in a civil suit connected to the same corruption scandal, officials said.

Mr Bukenya had denied the charges.

Correspondents say the court case against Mr Bukenya had previously been seen as a sign of the government's willingness to tackle alleged corruption.

He was accused in July of profiting from a $3.9m (£2.4m) deal to supply luxury cars for dozens of heads of state at the Commonwealth heads of government (CHOGM) summit four years ago.

He chaired the cabinet team in charge of preparations for the event.

President Yoweri Museveni sacked Mr Bukenya from the government in May as part of a cabinet reshuffle.

Government critics said the charges were politically motivated, to eliminate Mr Bukenya as a political threat to Mr Museveni.

Civil litigation

Mr Bukenya was the first government minister to face corruption charges in connection with the summit.

Three other senior officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, are still facing charges over a $4.8m deal to refurbish a hotel for the summit.

Mr Kutesa, chief whip John Nasasira and junior labour minister Mwesigwa Rukutana all appeared in court last month to plead not guilty to the charges.

All three have resigned from the government.

Scams involving the 2007 Commonwealth summit are thought to have cost the Ugandan government some $150m (£95m).

Uganda's Inspectorate General of Government - the body charged with fighting corruption - announced on Friday that it was dropping the case against the former vice-president because a vehicle dealer was suing the government over the tender to supply cars for the 2007 Commonwealth summit.

"It has come to the attention of the Inspectorate of Government that the state has been dragged to court in civil litigation by Spear Motors," Munira Ali, a spokesperson for the inspectorate, wrote in an e-mail.

The contract for supplying the luxury cars for the summit had initially been awarded to Spear Motors, a car dealership in Kampala, but was later cancelled and offered to another company.

Mr Bukenya became an MP in 1996. He had previously been Dean of the School of Medicine at Makerere University.

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