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Major General Salim Saleh- Junk Helicopters

Case Control Number: 
Description : 

According to "Role of media in curbing corruption: the case of Uganda under President Yoweri K. Museveni during the “no-party” system" (from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Working Paper No. 72), "The “junk helicopters” story was first broken by the New Vision in 1997. In April 1997, the Ugandan government signed a purchasing arrangement for four helicopter gunships from Belarus. The helicopters were to be supplied by a UK-based company called Consolidated Sales Corporation (CSC). When the initial batch of two helicopters arrived in Uganda, however, they did not meet the specifications of the contract and turned out to be junk.

The helicopters and the resulting lengthy dispute are estimated to have cost Uganda around USD 13 million. Major General Salim Saleh, the Minister of Defence at the time, confided in President Museveni, his eldest brother that CSC had offered him a bribe of USD 800,000 to help the deal go through. The contract price of each helicopter gunship was put at USD 1.5 million. Museveni ordered his brother to use the money in the war in northern Uganda. A judicial commission of inquiry was set up in 1999 to investigate the 1997 deal. In 2001, the judicial inquiry recommended that several officials, including Salim Saleh and Colonel Kizza Besigye, be tried for corruption. The director of Public Prosecution, Richard Butera, started independent investigations of Major- General Salim Saleh and Colonel Kizza Besigye, while the cabinet recommended the prosecution of army officers, businessmen and civil servants implicated by the judicial commission report. The cabinet also directed that implicated army officers should face an army court martial. The commission’s report was never made public or the findings of the court martial. After the report was submitted to the Ministry of Defence in August 2001, there was no follow up by the government. (Sunday Monitor, 2 September 2001, in Global Corruption Report 2003)"

Furthermore, according “Political corruption and the role of donors (in Uganda). [2005 Draft Copy]", "Perhaps one of the most compelling political corruption cases in Uganda’s recent past is the case of the purchase of the “junk choppers”. The case involved a decision taken by government in July 1996 to acquire four Russian Mi­24 attack helicopters from Belarus at a cost of US$1.5m each, together with subsidiary accessories, spare parts and ammunition. In addition, the government hired the services of several Belarus experts to train Uganda pilots in the operation of the helicopters.

The Ministry of Defence then entered into an agreement with the private company Consolidated Sales Corporation (CSC) to supply the helicopters. The Ministry was informed by the promoter of the corporation, Mr Emma Katto, that this was a British Virgin Island incorporated company. It came to transpire later that there were several illegalities committed in the procurement of the Mi­24 helicopters and a commission of inquiry was established to investigate the procurement process. The inquiry discovered that Consolidated Sales Corporation never actually existed at the time when the supply contract was signed with the Ministry of Defence. It was registered in Uganda (as a foreign company operating on plot 8/10 Kampala road) several moths after the contract for the helicopters was signed. It was also revealed that while CSC had described itself as the seller and supplier of the helicopters, it was a mere broker with no direct links to the supplier in Belarus. It was established as a profiteering company that purchased the helicopters from Belarus through a series of middlemen, and in turn sold them for a hefty profit.
The inquiry also revealed some startling information about corruption networks in Uganda. Mr Katto, the middleman, admitted that he had lobbied top army officials, including the Minister of Defence, Mr Salim Saleh (who is also the President’s younger brother). In a letter dated July 29,1996, Katto promised Mr Ruyondo a 10% commission on every contract that would be awarded to him by the Ministry of Defence, and that Salim Saleh was promised (and received) a US$800,000 commission for supporting the award of the helicopter contract. Salim Saleh later confessed to his big brother, the President, that he had received the bribe and the president advised him to give it to the army for special operations in the north. The commission of inquiry also got to know that the procurement transaction of the defective Mi­24 helicopters did cost the government US$ 3,495,955 in commissions (or bribes), US$ 2,342,241 meant for accessories, US$ 790,000 for the combined cost of commissioning services for the two helicopters and salaries and allowances of trainers, and US$ 216,000 for six expert salaries. The government also lost US$ 468,000 in food rations, medical care, and local/foreign travel for the experts and their families while in Uganda.

21The commission of inquiry recommended the prosecution of Salim Saleh along with the other individuals involved in the corruption scandal. The Cabinet furthermore endorsed this recommendation in a Government White Paper following the report, stating that “all officials of the Ministry of Defence, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), the Bank of Uganda or any other person implicated should be held accountable for causing financial loss to government or corruption”. The Cabinet also referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), while military personnel including the president’s brother implicated in the scandal were to be subjected to disciplinary action in accordance with the Army Statutes of 1992. The cabinet also ordered the Attorney General to lift the CSC corporate veil and proceed personally against Emma Katto, his wife, their overseas partners, Max Waterman, Chris Smith and others who offered the bribes to the army officials, including the president’s brother. However, contrary to the government stated stand on corruption, in early 2005, the Director of Public Prosecution withdrew charges against Salim Saleh for his role in the junk helicopters because he “could not find any evidence linking Salim Saleh to the to the junk helicopters scandal”. It should be remembered that Salim Salaeh not only confessed to his brother in private but that he subsequently acknowledged in public his receipt of the money during the commission of inquiry, which was a public hearing. The President also confirmed Saleh’s confession during the president’s testimony at the commission of inquiry.

In addition to the DPP dropping all the charges against Saleh, the Army Court Martial never laid any charges against him and the other army officials involved in the scandal. The only person who is still facing prosecution resulting from the helicopter scandal is Mr Katto, the supplier, but even he has not yet been convicted and he still enjoys a close relationship with the president’s brother and several other top government officials. Indeed, in an interview with the former Minster of Ethics and integrity, Hon. Miria Matembe on March 2, 2005, she is quoted as saying that the Government is using Katto’s prosecution as a gimmick to cover the tracks of the bigger individuals who were implicated in the purchase of the junk choppers. At least Saleh could have been successfully prosecuted on his own admission of receiving a bribe, which is punishable under the laws of Uganda."

Type of Illicit activity involving Public Official : 

Bribery, Kickbacks

Impediments to investigation: 

Fake Invoices Consulting Agreements, Changed CV jurisdiction

Most recent legal action against Public Official?: 
Other legal action/ other prosecutions: 
Country of Public Official: 
Jurisdiction(s) of legal action: 
Nogara, Monica. "Role of media in curbing corruption: the case of Uganda under President Yoweri K. Museveni during the “no-party” system." United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Working Paper No. 72. ST/ESA/2009/DWP/72. Jan. 2009, accessed at http://www.google.com/url?url=http://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2009/wp72_2009.pdf&rct=j&sa=U&ei=vOyWTMDkKsn6lwehqPmfCQ&ved=0CCAQFjAD&sig2=PvEx0IuvttfyhaltzDo5Aw&q=Tangri+and+Mwenda+2001&usg=AFQjCNF43Um8Y4XJIDuIU1RIVYWpKkRvLg&cad=rja Amundsen, Inge. "Political corruption and the role of donors (in Uganda). [2005 Draft Copy]". Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI Unpublished Commissioned Report for NORAD) 44 p. (Royal Norwegian Embassy, Kampala), accessed at http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/events/conferences/documents/Redesigning%20The%20State%20Papers/Amundsen.pdf
Position of Public Official during scheme: 
President’s brother; Special Advisor to President Yoweri Museveni on Military and Political Affairs in the north of Uganda
Is there a pending case or appeals?: 
UNCAC Articles(s) Implicated: 
Money laundering Implicated?: 
Year scheme began: 

Corporate Vihecles Used