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Three charged with murder of Finnish businessman in Uganda

The man was travelling with a former Finnish government minister and representing the state arms supplier when he died.

Pearl of Africa -hotelli Kampalassa Ugandassa.
The five-star Pearl of Africa Hotel is about a kilometre from the centre of Kampala. Image: EPA

Ugandan prosecutors have re-opened the case of a Finnish businessman found dead at a luxury hotel in the capital Kampala last year.

Yle has learned that three suspects have been charged with murder in a Kampala court, which has not however made any public announcement. They had previously been charged with negligent homicide and released on bail pending sentencing. Now they have been jailed again and face tougher charges.

Meanwhile charges filed earlier against two other suspects have been dismissed.

The man's unexplained death in February 2018 aroused considerable speculation when it was revealed that he had travelled to Uganda with Suvi Lindén, a long-time conservative National Coalition Party politician.

She served as minister of culture in 1999-2002, resigning amid a corruption scandal related to an Oulu golf course, and minister of communications from 2007 to 2011.

The man was also carrying an official license as a marketing representative of the majority Finnish state-owned defence equipment manufacturer Patria, which has been embroiled in corruption scandals in Croatia, Austria, Egypt and Slovenia.

Case re-opened after long hiatus

Yle has learned that after a long hiatus, the case was re-opened and passed on to a prosecutor with the strong suspicion that the three had the intention and motive to kill the arms dealer. Previously they were found to have unintentionally caused his death. He was believed to have died after overdosing on drugs brought to his room by one of the suspects.

Story continues after photo

Oikeudenkäynti Buganda road oikeustalolla, Kampalassa.
A hearing on the case at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court in Kampala in April 2018. Image: A-List Communications

One of the suspects is a woman who has been referred to in the Ugandan press as the Finn's girlfriend, and two accomplices. If convicted of murder, they could face the death penalty.

On 6 February 2018, the man was found dead in a room at the five-star Pearl of Africa Hotel, about a kilometre from the city centre. At that point Ugandan police said that traces of cocaine and insecticide were found in his body.

Lindén remains tight-lipped

The purpose of the businessman's and Lindén's Uganda trip remains unclear. The man, who worked an entrepreneur across various sectors, had sent a letter to a contact in Uganda saying that he was representing several companies in Africa, selling products ranging from defence materiel to online surveillance systems and encryption programmes.

Lindén has not spoken of her role other than to say she was on the trip to promote issues related to the information society. A local journalist says that Lindén said she went to Uganda to look into business opportunities.

She served as a special envoy for the Broadband Commission of the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency, from 2010 to 2015, and still used the title after this.

The businessman was also found to be in possession of a seemingly counterfeit invitation, which he apparently believed was signed by Col. Frank 'Kaka' Bagyenda, a former rebel guerrilla who is now director of Uganda's Internal Security Organisation, a counter intelligence agency.

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