The United States has imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on two Ugandan judges, a lawyer and her husband for their alleged involvement in activities that victimised young children in a corrupt adoption scheme.

The judges are Wilson Musalu Musene of Soroti High Court and Moses Mukiibi, who retired.

The other two Ugandans are advocate Dorah Mirembe and her husband Patrick Ecobu.
The four, according to a press release from the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), allegedly participated in a scam that saw young children removed from their families and placed into a corrupt adoption network, aided by the facilitation of officials.

“Deceiving innocent Ugandan families into giving up their children for adoption has caused great suffering,” the press release quotes Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich.

“The individuals involved in this corrupt scam deliberately exploited the good faith of Ugandans and Americans to enrich themselves. The United States remains committed to seeking out and exposing individuals violating human rights across the world,” Mr Muzinich added.

According to the US, the four participated in a scheme whereby, in certain instances, young children were removed from Ugandan families under promises for “special education” programmes and study in the United States, and were subsequently offered to US families for adoption.
The adoption agency organising the scheme allegedly used the advocate’s law firm to handle the legal aspects of the adoptions, in some cases through the manipulation or falsification of court documents.

It is further stated that Mirembe’s law firm at times hired or used the services of intermediary parties to seek out vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages to manipulate parents who often could not read or write English into giving their children up for adoption under false pretences.

“Once removed from their homes, many of the children were placed primarily into one unlicensed children’s home in Kampala, and many were made to appear before courts as though they were in fact orphans. Unwitting American prospective adoptive parent(s) would then arrive in Uganda to adopt the children and bring them back to America,” the statement stated.
“In order to arrange the adoption of the children, Mirembe, with the assistance of Ecobu, facilitated multiple bribes to Ugandan judges Mukiibi, Musene, and other Ugandan government officials, either directly or through an interlocutor. Mirembe had negotiated with Musene a flat fee for processing adoption cases.

In at least one case, Mirembe met directly with Musene to arrange an additional amount of money required for Musene to expedite the date of a pending adoption case on Musene’s court calendar,” it added.

It is further alleged that following the transfer of Justice Musene to a different division, Ms Mirembe allegedly arranged to get cases steered to Justice Mukiibi, to whom at least one individual paid cash bribes at the direction of the lawyer.

Acting chief registrar of courts Tom Chemutai last evening said he could not comment on the development on grounds that he had just seen it and need to verify it first.

“I have just looked at it and I need to look at it again tomorrow (today) to verify its authenticity and its implications.” Mr Chemutai said by telephone.

Implication of the sanctions
The US sanctions imply that all property and interests in property of the named officers, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.

Under Section 7031(c), once the Secretary of State designates officials of foreign governments for their involvement, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. The law also requires the Secretary of State to either publicly or privately designate or identify such officials.

In September last year, the US government through its Treasury department also imposed sanctions on former Police chief Gen Kale Kayihura for reportedly engaging in corruption and human rights abuses.

In a statement released on September 13, 2019, the US government claimed Gen Kayihura directly supervised the torture of prisoners at the Nalufenya Police special investigations facility in Jinja before barring him and his family from travelling to the States.

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