DCP tycoons snubbed Bunge probe committee -Said No to summons in identical letters sent to the Clerk of the National Assembly -Committee also noted how some government officials embraced and protected the tycoons THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam A GROUP of local businessmen alleged to have been involved in massive looting of public funds from the central bank under the 1990s Debt Conversion Programme (DCP) scheme is understood to have flatly rejected a summons by the parliamentary committee that investigated the scandal, stoking controversy about the level of their influence in the top echelons of government. Subbash Patel, Jayantkumar Chandubhai (Jeetu) Patel, and others in the same group all refused to appear before the Bunge committee at the height of its investigation into the DCP scam that saw over 50bn/- being effectively embezzled from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) coffers. It has come to light that members of this group each sent identical letters to the National Assembly, stating that they would not appear before the probe team chaired by the then Rorya legislator Ayombe Ayila, purportedly because the matter was already before the courts. In his letter sent on October 6, 1994 to probe committee chairman Ayila and the then Clerk of the National Assembly, George Mlawa, Subhash Patel quoted various sections of legislation which he claimed prevented him from appearing before the Bunge committee. To quote part of the letter: I, Subhash Patel, pursuant to Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privileges Act Number 3 of 1988, feel that it would be a breach of law for me to give statements or evidence concerning allegations of misappropriation of DCP funds facing V.G. Chavda, since the court has clearly stated that the (parliamentary) committee should not proceed with the investigation against V.G. Chavda until this matter is resolved by the courts. The same letter was sent verbatim, to the same recipients, by Dasabhai B. Patel, G. Devadoss, and other members of the key group who had also been summoned by the parliamentary probe committee to give evidence against V.G. Chavda. The report of the committee seen by THISDAY reveals how V.G. Chavda, one of the alleged masterminds behind the looting of the DCP funds, also displayed his arrogance towards Tanzanian authorities. He is quoted as saying: I came to this country (Tanzania) without a single penny; a beggar. True, I had not a single penny, but I was not a beggar. I came with a brain worth millions of dollars ... supported by education and exposure. On the DCP scandal, the 1994 Bunge report quotes Chavda as saying: DCP funds were brought totally by my idea, initiative and efforts. What I have managed to do in DCP is beyond the sphere of understanding of P.G., or any of his team of lawyers, or any of his staff. It is purely a financial issue which nobody in Builders Chavda Limited is capable to grasp. In the course of its investigation, the parliamentary committee established that there were elements of corruption, fraud, and gross irregularities in the administration of DCP funds by the central bank. The committee furthermore took issue with the way some senior government officials embraced and protected a small group of DCP funds beneficiaries, saying that such behaviour of open favouritism and disregard of proper procedures indicated a serious lack of public leadership ethics. It is also understood that in December 1993, the office of the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in the Tanzania Police Force sent a dossier on the DCP scam to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), seeking consent to formally indict V.G Chavda and other members of the seemingly elite group with fraud and theft of public (DCP) funds. But for reasons that remain unclear todate, neither Chavda, Subhash Patel, Jeetu Patel nor any other members of the group in question have ever been brought to book on such charges. The Ayila committee report notes that members of this group were fraudulently paid more than 50.877bn/- in total under the DCP banner, forcing the central bank to print new banknotes worth at least 48bn/- in a bid to cover the deficit. This sequence of events are believed to have contributed to a sudden increase in the national inflation rate by a staggering 15 per cent. According to the report, such systematic looting of public funds from the BoT was a major contributing factor to the hyper- inflation and nationwide economic crisis that hit the country in the 1990s.