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Uganda PM wins damages from UK newspaper over graft claim

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Uganda's Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi gives a speech at the World Economic Forum meeting on Africa, on May 9, 2013, in Cape Town. Mbabazi has accepted substantial damages from Britain's Daily Mail newspaper after it falsely claimed he and his "cronies" siphoned off millions of dollars of foreign aid, London's High Court heard. (AFP/File)

Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has accepted substantial damages from Britain's Daily Mail newspaper after it falsely claimed he and his "cronies" siphoned off millions of dollars of foreign aid, London's High Court heard on Tuesday.

The tabloid has also issued a public apology over two stories that appeared in the newspaper and on its website late last year, entitled: "??10m foreign aid went to cronies of Ugandan PM" and "Britain and Ireland suspend aid to Uganda after ??10m of funding ends up in Prime Minister's account".

Britain suspended all aid to the Ugandan government in November after Uganda's auditor general found that 10 million euros ($12.7 million) of aid from major Western donors had been funnelled into officials' bank accounts.

But it was staff in Mbabazi's office who came under suspicion rather than the prime minister himself as reported by the Daily Mail, which runs one of the world's most popular news websites.

Solicitor Andrew Stephenson told the court: "In fact, on October 19, 2012, the Ugandan Auditor General produced a report which revealed irregularities, fraud and forgery on the part of staff working within the office of the prime minister.

"As the defendant accepts, there was no suggestion in the Auditor General's Report that the claimant was responsible for, or benefited from, the theft of the money from the office of the prime minister."

Mbabazi has accepted substantial undisclosed damages from the Daily Mail's publisher Associated Newspapers, the court heard, while the articles have been taken down from its website.

MailOnline recorded more than 120 million unique visits from users around the globe last month, according to figures released last week by the British media monitor ABC.

Denmark, Norway and Ireland also suspended millions of dollars of funding to Uganda over the missing aid, which was meant to go to parts of the country that were ravaged by its civil war.

A guerrilla campaign was waged between 1987 and 2006 in Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army, which became notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become child soldiers.

Uganda has repaid some of the misappropriated funding to donors including Sweden and Norway.