Monday, August 22, 2011

politician for hire

The Liberal Democrat Steel lobbied the president of Uganda to land a profitable contract for a former business partner who is now the subject of an international bribery inquiry, an investigation by the Guardian has established.

Lord Steel, the former Liberal party leader, was hired by the businessman, Benoy Berry, to give credibility to his firm's bid to win a $100m contract from the Ugandan government. The Scottish peer lobbied the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, after he was paid to go to the country's capital, Kampala. Berry is being investigated over alleged corrupt payments to secure contracts for a different company in another African country, Nigeria.

Berry, an Irish economist who lives in a large house in Barnet, north London, is the main owner of a London firm, Contec-Global, says he appointed Steel to be chairman of the technology firm in August 2005. At the time, Contec-Global was striving to persuade the Ugandan government to award it a large contract to develop a national ID card. Steel was hired to "open doors" and introduce Berry to ministers and officials in Kampala. Berry said: "The purpose of Lord Steel's visit was to give credibility to Contec's tenders which faced competition from other tenderers" [from Israeli and South African firms].

The competition to win the ID card contract was suspended by the Ugandan government after it became mired in a series of corruption allegations. Uganda's official anti-corruption watchdog, the inspectorate of government, found that a Ugandan government minister, Isaac Musumba, was "fronting and/or lobbying" for Contec to win the contract. The watchdog accused Musumba of engaging in "gross interference, manipulation and influence-peddling" in the award of the contract.

Steel came under pressure to step down as the director of a firm called General Mediterranean Holdings when its subsidiary was investigated by the SFO in 2002 over an alleged fraud.

Taken from here

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