Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Museveni buying biological/chemical weapons?

Museveni aide ‘bought chemical, bio weapons’

Monitor correspondent

A Danish national appeared before a London court on Monday on charges of transferring chemical and biological weapons to Mr Ananias Tumukunde, an aide to President Museveni who has been in the custody of British authorities for several weeks on charges of money laundering.

Mr Niels Jørgen Tobiasen, 55, who appeared before the Southwark Crown Court for a pre-trial hearing, is a director in a Copenhagen-based firm that supplies sophisticated software and hardware to armed forces in the United States, Great Britain, Nato, and to more than 20 other countries.

He is suspected of having dealings with Mr Tumukunde, a Ugandan diplomatic passport holder, who was arrested in the UK on April 3, charged with five money laundering-related offences, and remanded at Hamondsworth Prison. Mr Tobiasen was arrested on July 17 in London after a two-month investigation, and three months after Mr Tumukunde first appeared in court.

Mr Tumukunde was not in court on Monday when Mr Tobiasen appeared before Southwark Crown Court but prosecutor David Levy asked Justice Martin Beddoe to have the two suspects appear in court together when trial starts on August 22.

According to the indictment seen by Daily Monitor, it is alleged that between April 1, 2007 and April 4, 2008, Mr Tobiasen “conspired together with Ananias Tumukunde and Lt. Col. Rusoke Tagaswire to transfer, acquire, use or have possession of criminal property” in contravention of Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Prosecution says Mr Tobiasen “on the 15th day of January 2008 transferred criminal property, namely Chemical and Biological weapons”.

Lt. Col. Tagaswire, a Uganda People’s Defence Force officer, is still at large. A bio-chemist with a degree in toxicology, Lt. Col. Tagaswire was part of the team appointed by President Museveni last year to investigate the suspicious death of Brig. Noble Mayombo who died after a sudden and intense illness that aroused suspicion of poisoning. The report of their findings has not been made public.

During Mr Tumukunde’s last appearance at Southwark Crown Court, the prosecutor, Mr David Whitaker, alleged that Uganda’s diplomatic mission in London was not cooperating in the case against President Museveni’s adviser. Uganda’s High Commissioner to London Joan Rwabyomere denied the claim in an interview with Daily Monitor.

“Yes, we received the questionnaire from [the Crown Prosecution Service]. I forwarded the questionnaire to the Attorney General in Kampala but we haven’t received the response,” Ms Rwabyomere said.

Deputy Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi claimed the office had not received the questionnaire and referred inquiries about the two Ugandan officials back to the high commission in London. The High Commissioner and her deputy, Ms Mumtaz Kassam, were not available for comment.

The army and the government yesterday denied any wrongdoing but pledged to cooperate with the investigators. The Presidential Guard Brigade Spokesman, Capt. Edson Kwesiga, said; “It’s true Lt. Tagaswire is one of us but it’s not right to say he has connections with Mr Tumukunde. We are more than willing to help the investigators in this case with any information they may require.”

The Minister of Information, Mr Kirunda Kivejinja, said yesterday: “We want to identify the actual mission he (Tumukunde) had gone for, but as government we don’t do clandestine work. We will assist in giving any information they (investigators) want….”

Ms Kassam and President Museveni’s legal aide Fox Odoi have been seen outside the London courthouse where Mr Tumukunde is being tried.
Lawyers working for the Kampala government have separately asked court to either drop the charges against Mr Tumukunde or have him released on bail but on both occasions, the judges have concurred with prosecutors; Mr David Levy and Mr David Whitaker that Mr Tumukunde should remain in custody as investigations continue. Each count against Mr Tumukunde carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.

Chemical and biological weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction. The release of nerve agent sarin in a Tokyo subway in 1995 was a rare terrorist chemical attack while the mailing of anthrax bacteria to government and news media offices in the United States in 2001 is one of the most recent examples.

Uganda is a signatory to both the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibit the use of these types of weapons due, in part, to the indiscriminate nature of their lethal effects.

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