Ugandan Faces 20 Years In US Jail Over UGX8.7 Billion Fraud

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A Ugandan national is faced with at least a 20-year jail term and possible deportation to Uganda after he was charged and pleaded guilty to four cases of wire fraud totalling $2.3m (about Shs8.7b).

Stories carried in several American publications indicate that Mr Adrian Kawuba, 33, was arraigned before the federal court in Boston on December 21 last year where he pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud.

The United States (US) Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought up the charges against Kawuba, accuses him of involvement in “fraud, deceit, manipulation, or deliberate or reckless disregard of regulatory requirements, that resulted in substantial loss, or significant risk of substantial loss, to other persons.”

Documents on the commission’s website indicate that Mr Kawuba is a former footballer, who made 44 appearances as a player for the Drew Rangers, a Drew University soccer team. He later featured for Pittsburgh Riverhounds for whom he played professional soccer, having signed up in February 2011.

The circumstances under which his career came to an end remain unclear. What is clear is that the 33-year-old is now accused of having carried out the acts of fraud from May 2019 through to November 2021.

During the period, the documents show, he “engaged in interstate and international wiring of funds” and entered at least 20 “investment agreements and also made personal guarantee agreements with five largest investors, all of which falsely promised returns of 25 percent to 50 percent in as little as 12 days to seven months.”

The investors’ money was reportedly meant to be invested in financing of short-term projects, including youth sports, entertainment events, and the costs associated with transferring players between private soccer clubs.

The investments were reportedly meant to be carried out in mostly Africa and parts of Asia. As it turned out, Mr Kawuba used the investors’ money to run a Ponzi scheme.

“Kawuba’s actual use of the core investors’ funds reveals that his investment representations were fabrications. Contrary to what he told the investors the money would be used for, Kawuba operated a Ponzi-like scheme, using later investors’ money to pay back earlier investors,” the court documents state.

Pride before a fall
The accused was first arrested in November 2022 after he failed to meet his obligations under the agreements. The Commission further established that Kawuba used most of the money to fund a life of luxury.

“He also used investors’ money to pay for personal trips to Florida and the Greek Islands, to purchase a Lexus automobile, and to buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods at several fashion and jewellery stores,” the court document further reads.

Whereas he initially made payments of principal and purported returns to core investors mostly with money taken in from the core investors themselves, he started falling into arrears beginning in November 2021.

He reportedly failed to pay $280,000 (about Shs1b) out of the $1.9m (about Shs7.2b). That led to complaints, which culminated into his arrest and arraignment before the federal court in Boston.

The Commission is seeking orders to, among others, freeze Kawuba’s assets; require him to account for all investors’ money; and to prohibit him from accepting or depositing any money obtained from the investors pending the resolution of the case.

The Commission is further seeking orders requiring him to repatriate his assets; to disgorge his ill-gotten gains; prejudgement interest; civil penalties for his violation; and an order restraining him from destroying, concealing or disposing of property or documents related to the conduct at the centre of the charges brought against him.

According to the Boston Globe, Judge William G Young has set March 14, as the date on which he will deliver a sentence.

According to media reports in the US, each wire fraud charge attracts a sentence of 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 (about Shs945m), or twice the monetary loss or gain, among others.

It can also come with an order directing that he compensates his victims and forfeits any assets he has to his name.

Mr Kawuba’s arraignment in court comes 15 years after a jury within the same Massachusetts district area, arrived a guilty verdict in a case in which another Ugandan, Nasser Ntege Ssebagala, the deceased former Mayor of Kampala, was accused of eight counts of making false customs declarations; bank fraud; and transporting forged documents into the US.

Credit: Daily Monitor

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