05.11.2008 @01:57 EAT Airport drama as Sh1.4bn fraud suspect is arrested By Mkinga Mkinga and Rosina John THE CITIZEN Police arrested a key suspect in the theft of more than Sh1.4 billion from Barclays Bank Tanzania Limited, after foiling his escape bid the airport in Dar es Salaam yesterday morning. The officers pounced on the man at Julius Nyerere International Airport, at 11 am, as he was reportedly waiting to fly out following the arrest of scores of the bank's employees over the fraud. The acting Dar es Salaam special police zone commander, Mr Everist Mangala, told The Citizen the arrest could be a major breakthrough in the investigation into the syndicate in which some of the bank's employees colluded with dealers to steal millions of shillings. As the drama was unfolding at the airport, six bank employees, including three managers, were charged in the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's court with stealing more than Sh1 billion from their employer in fraudulent deals. They were arrested on Sunday after the fraud was uncovered. At the airport yesterday morning, plainclothes detectives seized the suspect, a Dar transport company manager, who is believed to have received $80,500 (more than Sh100 million) of the bank loot. Airport workers told The Citizen that the man was whisked away from the queue as soon as he presented his travel documents for clearance. "He was told to step aside, appeared stunned and trembled. He tried to argue with the officers but was led to a waiting van and driven away as other travellers watched without knowing what was going on," a Customs official said. The Citizen could not immediately establish where the suspect intended to travel to. Mr Mangala said the officers were convinced he may have been trying to flee the country. "It's true that we have a suspect in custody and he is being questioned in connection with the Barclays Bank theft of Sh1.4 billion," he said. Though not a bank employee, documents seized from the other suspects indicated that he may have been linked to the racket involving staff members and some merchants. Sources within the bank said the racketeers had interfered with the electronic money transfer system to steal the money. The bank's officials are understood to have asked experts at the parent company's headquarters in the United Kingdom to break the code. Managing Director Rished Bade, who reportedly discovered the fraud, declined to comment when contacted by The Citizen. But Police boss Mangala said they were following several leads indicating that most of the stolen funds had been channelled to the suspect�s accounts in another major bank in Dar es Salaam. Police said they were concerned about the increasing incidence of thefts by syndicates colluding with the employees of financial institutions. The Barclays theft follows several others, in which mobile telephone companies have been the main casualties. Vodacom Tanzania Limited lost a whopping Sh2.6 billion last July. Six suspects have since been arrested and their case is pending in court. Employers have been warning that the sharp increase in thefts involving staff poses a big threat to the economy, as it may discourage investment. The six suspects who appeared before Resident Magistrate Euphemia Mingi listened keenly as the prosecutor, Assistant Commissioner of Police Charles Kenyella, read the nine charges to them. The suspects are managers Winford Mang'onda, Shubira Mutungi, and Upendo Mushi. The others are staffers Neema Saria, Margareth Longway, and Boniface Mukone. They all denied the charges and were remanded in custody until tomorrow, when the court will rule on their bail applications. The prosecution alleges that on October 28, they jointly conspired to defraud Barclays Bank of $1,081,263. The six, who were based at the bank's head office on Ohio Street in downtown Dar es Salaaam, and others not in court, the charge sheet states, stole the money by forging swift messages number, SEQ 000041, SEQ 00356, SEQ 000305, dated October 27. The swift messages purported to show that they were genuinely issued to Kigamboni Oil Communication Company and a Mr Ramadhani Hamis for the transfer of the money through accounts number 0018001993 and 0157001698. Mr Alex Mgongolwa, representing the suspects, objected to the prosecution's appeal that they be remanded in custody, arguing that the charges were bailable. His clients, he said, had been in custody since Sunday and, therefore, police had enough time to prepare their case.