U.S sanctions two High Court Judges, Lawyer over child adoption scam

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The United States government has Monday imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on two Ugandan High Court Judges and a Lawyer for their alleged involvement in ” activities that victimised young children in a corrupt adoption scheme.”

High Court Judges Wilson Musalu Musene and Moses Mukiibi, along with Lawyer Dorah Mirembe, a Partner at Ssebaggala & Mirembe Advocates together with her husband Mr Patrick Ecobu participated in a scam that saw young Ugandan children removed from their families and placed into a corrupt adoption network, according to a Press statement by U.S Secretary of State Micheal Pompeo.

” Together, these individuals engaged in corruption to arrange the adoption of Ugandan children by unwitting parents in the United States.  Mirembe’s law firm used the services of intermediary parties to seek out vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages, promising parents that their children would be moved to Kampala to further their education.  American prospective adoptive parents then traveled to Uganda to adopt children from an unlicensed children’s home in Kampala. ” the Statement reads.

How it happened?

According to the U.S Department of the Treasury, an unnamed adoption agency behind the scheme where the children and their families would be promised special education in the U.S used the services of Ms Dorah Mirembe’s law firm that included the handling of the scheme’s legal aspects, falsification or manipulation of court documents and the setting up of intermediaries to engage Ugandan families to give up their children for adoption.


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” Mirembe’s law firm at times hired or used the services of intermediary parties to seek out vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages to manipulate parents — who often could not read or write English — into giving their children up for adoption under false pretenses. Mirembe’s law firm, directly or through its intermediaries, promised parents that their children would be moved to Kampala, Uganda, and looked after by missionaries while being educated.

” Once removed from their homes, many of the children were placed primarily into one unlicensed children’s home in Kampala, and many were made to appear before courts as though they were in fact orphans. Unwitting American prospective adoptive parent(s) would then arrive in Uganda to adopt the children and bring them back to America”  Mr Justin G. Muzinich, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury said in a statement.

” In order to arrange the adoption of the children, Mirembe, with the assistance of Ecobu, facilitated multiple bribes to Ugandan judges Mukiibi, Musene, and other Ugandan government officials, either directly or through an interlocutor.

” Mirembe had negotiated with Musene a flat fee for processing adoption cases. In at least one case, Mirembe met directly with Musene to arrange an additional amount of money required for Musene to expedite the date of a pending adoption case on Musene’s court calendar. Following Musene’s transfer to a different court division, Mirembe arranged to get cases steered to Mukiibi, to whom at least one individual paid cash bribes at the direction of Mirembe.” Mr Muzinich said.

Efforts to obtain a comment from Lawyer Dorah Mirembe went futile as multiple calls to her known number went unanswered. Although, the United States government did not mention in particular the corrupt adoption cases, in 2018, Reunite, an NGO in Uganda reportedly whistleblowed to Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development that two young girls Resty Namaata and Violah Nakayondo had been illegally adopted by American families. The two children were subsequently returned to Uganda.

Ms Dorah Mirembe handled the adoption of the two children before Justices Musalu Musene and Moses Mukiibi in the Family Division of the High Court. Justice Moses Mukiibi issued a guardianship order placing Violah Nakayondo in the hands of  one Shawn Jamison Wells and Stacey Lee Wells of 12 Woodridge Esates Huntington, West Virginia, 25704 USA ( under family cause No. 046 of 2016) and Justice Wilson Musalu Musene, placed Resty Namaata in the hands of Adam Michael Davis and Jessica Jean Davis of 138 Crisswill Road in Saint Clairsville, Ohio 43950, USA ( under family cause No. 23 of 2015). Ms Dorah Mirembe at the time denied any wrong doing in the cases.

What does this mean for the four individuals?

As a result of the sanctions, the two Judges, Lawyer Dorah Mirembe and her husband are barred from entering the United States due to their alleged involvement in “significant corruption.” All of their properties or interests in the United States are blocked and must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

“Deceiving innocent Ugandan families into giving up their children for adoption has caused great suffering,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich. “The individuals involved in this corrupt scam deliberately exploited the good faith of Ugandans and Americans to enrich themselves. The United States remains committed to seeking out and exposing individuals violating human rights across the world.”

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