Debt collectors zero in on Manji THIS DAY A DEBT collector hired by the government to recover more than 180bn/- from the Commodity Import Support (CIS) scam has confirmed that prominent businessman Yusuf Manji is among the biggest debtors on the list. Debt collectors have thus far established that the chief executive officer of Quality Group Limited is behind a string of companies that benefited from the CIS funds, but held back in repaying the money to the government. As a one-week ultimatum given to the CIS debtors to pay up has formally expired, it has emerged that Manji has already returned some of the funds but is yet to clear his 'massive' debt. Ibrahimu Msolopa, the Executive Director of Msolopa Investment Company Limited, a debt collection agency commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to recover the CIS funds, confirmed to THISDAY that Manji was among the high-profile debtors on the list. He revealed that the controversial businessman has paid some of the debts, but was yet to settle the full amount of money he received from the CIS fund, which amounts to billions of shillings. ''Manji took many loans from CIS -- both small and large -- through his various companies. However, only a few of his companies have so far paid the debts, while others are continuing to pay up,'' he explained. According to THISDAY investigations, Yusuf Manji, who is strongly linked to the import support scam is believed to have pocketed tens of billions of shillings out of the CIS scheme. Msolopa could not immediately confirm Manji's total debt to the CIS fund, but said his debt collectors were continuing to recover more funds from the businessman. He explained that Manji and other debtors who were yet to settle their debts after the expiry of the set deadline would be given a grace period to pay up if they demonstrate a willingness to do so. However, he revealed that debtors who fail to settle their debts would be named and shamed publicly and ultimately dragged to court. It is understood that some of the company owners on the list had disputed the debts and were reluctant to settle their long overdue debts. Msolopa said some company owners simply disowned the debts, while others claimed they did not recall the money owed. A number of businessmen demanded clarifications from debt collectors as to when they actually went to take loans from the CIS funds, and ultimately agreed to pay the debts after being shown documentary evidence. ''Other debtors have been trying to disown the debts, claiming that they have inherited the debts from former shareholders of their companies thus showing some difficulties in accepting the liability,'' he said. He insisted that all individuals who fail to settle their debts would be publicly named. ''We will publicize the names of the defaulters then discuss with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs further steps to be taken, including legal action,'' he added. He explained that officials from his debt collection agency were making visits to companies that have failed to settle their debts so far to discuss the way forward. After a much-publicised crackdown on corruption at the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), the government has appeared ready to shift its focus onto the long-standing import support scheme scandal, where around 16.6 billion Japanese yen (approx. 180bn/-) mysteriously disappeared. Official records from the Ministry of Finance indicate that a total of 916 companies countrywide are on the debtors' list. It has been confirmed that several companies on this list are owned by Manji, who appears to have already started to pay his debts. Well-placed sources have told THISDAY that the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), the office of the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), and other law enforcement agencies have long been trailing the import support scam. In particular, the PCCB investigation on the CIS scandal was reported to have reached an advanced stage, but it remains uncertain if the government's corruption watchdog plans to pursue criminal proceedings against some well-known suspects. Insiders say apart from Manji, the names of various well-known businessmen and politicians - both past and present - are among those featured on the list of debtors. Under the CIS scheme, beneficiaries were supposed to provide 30 per cent of the requested funds known as 'cash cover.' It is understood that some of the listed debtors were basically duped by a notorious businessman into borrowing CIS funds they thought they would never have to repay. The scheme was initially administered by the Ministry of Finance, but from September 2002 it was moved to the Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB), ostensibly for better management of the funds.