EPA PROBE FALLOUT: BoT officials suspended THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam AT least five senior officials of the Bank of Tanzania have been suspended over the massive misuse of 133bn/- from the external payment arrears account (EPA), THISDAY can reveal today. The five officials who held key positions in the BoT were involved in one way or another in authorising dubious payments from the EPA account during 2005/06. Their suspension follows President Jakaya Kikwetes instructions to the BoT Board of Directors under the chairmanship of the new Governor, Prof. Benno Ndullu, to go after all central bank officials who were involved in the fraudulent payments. (The) BoT officials were suspended, pending external payment arrears (EPA) account investigations, in order to establish the truth, the BoTs Senior Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Mwero, said in a statement to THISDAY. He added: BoTs role is only to furnish the (government) investigating team with any relevant information needed to accomplish the investigations. The BoT spokesman said investigations against the role of BoT officials in the EPA scandal were on two fronts -- determining their involvement in the dubious transactions and establishing whether or not they personally benefited from the huge sums of money paid out from the key central bank account. As you are clearly aware, investigations on the above (subject) are being undertaken by the investigating team appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete under the chairmanship of Attorney General Johnson Mwanyika. Once the team finalizes its investigations, the relevant government organs, based on the findings of the team, will subsequently take the necessary steps, including court action, he said. The BoT statement was in response to a fresh report published by THISDAY which highlighted widespread public concerns that senior BoT officials who facilitated the massive embezzlement of EPA funds were still under the very employ of the central bank. However, the BoT yesterday sought to allay these fears by explaining that the five officials were under suspension pending ongoing EPA investigations. It was not immediately clear if the officials were suspended without pay or otherwise, and whether or not they would stay home for the entire duration of the probe (six months). Following the conclusion of a special audit on the BoT by Ernst & Young, President Kikwete immediately sacked former Governor Dr Daudi Ballali and appointed the AG to head a high-level government investigation into the EPA scandal. The president also named Prof. Ndulu as the new boss of the central bank and directed the BoTs Board of Directors to take swift action against all officials of the bank implicated in the scandal. According to latest THISDAY findings, a sizeable amount of the 133bn/- stolen from the EPA account ended up lining the pockets of some corrupt central bank officials as kickbacks. It is understood that the senior BoT officials facilitated the illegal payment of billions of shillings to the businessmen who benefited from the EPA funds under the agreement that some of the money would be diverted to their own bank accounts. Some of the billions of shillings in illegal kickbacks paid out to the BoT businessmen are known to have been deposited in offshore bank accounts while other funds were channelled to local bank accounts under various names. In one particular case, a very senior BoT official even directed one of the local commercial banks in Dar es Salaam to transfer some of the EPA funds to a bank account in Hong Kong, said a source familiar with the scandal. He added: This is quite remarkable because the then top BoT official was actually instructing a private commercial bank to facilitate money laundering through an offshore bank account. Insiders say senior BoT officials who solicited bribes in exchange for facilitating the fraudulent EPA payments have amassed quite a small fortune. These senior BoT officials behind the EPA scam are known to own expensive mansions at Masaki and other posh neighbourhoods in Dar es Salaam and can be seen driving some very fancy cars, said another source.