Adoption Scam: Ugandan Lawyer Dorah Mirembe charged in the U.S with fraud
The United States Treasury, on Monday, imposed sanctions on four Ugandans, including two High Court judges for participating in a fraudulent adoption scheme. These were Justices Moses Mukiibi and Wilson Musalu Musene, as well as lawyer Dorah Mirembe and her husband, Patrick Ecobu. The scheme, according to the U.S government involved the group convincing Ugandan parents that they were going to give their children “special education” before fraudulently offering them to families in the United States of America for adoption.
The Justice Department of the United States has now got into the thick of the scandal, and has charged Dorah Mirembe, alongside Debra Parris and Margaret Cole with fraud. According to the indictment issued by the prosecution in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division, Ms. Mirembe provided adoption-related services to Adoption Agency, pursuant to a contract with the firm and provided legal representation to their clients in Uganda.
It is alleged that Mirembe received more than 430,000 dollars for her fraudulent dealings that injured Ugandan and American families alike. In the indictment, Ms. Mirembe, alongside her co-accused, is accused of bribing Ugandan government officials in order to grant adoptions of Ugandan children who they knew had not been properly determined to be orphans and were not eligible for inter-country adoption.
They are also accused of making misrepresentations and concealing material facts from Adoption Agency clients relating to the circumstances of the children to be adopted, wiring money from the United States to Uganda to provide money for the bribes and causing Adoption Agency clients to submit fraudulent visa applications in connection with these adoptions.
In addition to the aforementioned sum of money, Ms. Mirembe received “tens of thousands of dollars directly from Adoption Agency’s clients for representing them in Uganda”. In as regards bribes, Ms. Mirembe and co-conspirators bribed welfare officers, magistrates, court registrars and even High Court judges in order to secure the adoptions of these Ugandan children by families in the US. The High Court judges, particulary, were bribed in order to obtain guardianship orders to permit Adoption Agency’s clients to take the children to the United States for adoption.
” Forexample, Mirembe and others working at Mirembe’s direction used money from Adoption agency to pay bribes to a welfare officer in the Kayunga district of Uganda in exchange for [the] Kayunga welfare officer signing welfare reports that recommended placing children into an orphanage. These corruptly procured welfare reports were not based on [the] Kayunga welfare officer’s independent determinations that these children had to be placed into an orphanage” The indictment reads.
Mirembe and Adoption Agency apparently concealed their bribes by sending invoices via email to their clients that “falsely and fraudulently concealed the bribes” to court registrars as “court filing fees” and to the Judges as ” Judge hearing fees”. Mirembe and co-conspirators apparently also submitted false reports to the State Department, including the submission of corruptly obtained fraudulent welfare reports, in order to obtain the visas necessary to bring the adoptive children to the United States.
The scandal, which has taken the country by storm, has raised concerns about ethics and standards in the Ugandan Judiciary. The slew of bribes alleged by the United States that were given out by Ms. Mirembe and Adoption Agency were handed to a number of judicial officers in different roles, most notably, Justice Wilson Musalu Musene and Moses Mukiibi. Additionally, the fact that this scandal concerns the separation of families and the mental anguish thereby caused makes it an urgent issue for the Judiciary to address inorder to keep public trust in the institution.