23.10.2008 @03:35 EAT EPA cash revovery setback THE CITIZEN By Mkinga Mkinga Only Sh234 million has been recovered by the Attorney-General Johnson Mwanyika-led Bank of Tanzania External Payments Arrears (EPA) account scandal investigation team during the presidential amnesty window that ends in a week's time, The Citizen can reveal. This falls far short of the more than Sh10 billion the task force appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete early in the year had hoped to recover from the 22 companies that benefited from a total of Sh133 billion that was siphoned out of the central bank through the EPA account. Highly-placed government sources told The Citizen that time was running out for the owners of 13 companies that irregularly received Sh90 billion. They have been given until October 31 to return the money they received fraudulently or face prosecution. Our inquiries revealed that the Mwanyika team, which includes the Director of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau, Dr Edward Hoseah, and the Inspector General of Police, Mr Said Mwema, will meet some of the suspects in Dar es Salaam tomorrow. In a keynote address to the National Assembly last August, President Kikwete gave an ultimatum to the 13 companies to refund the Sh10.7 billion by October 31 or be taken to court. He told Parliament that he had accepted an appeal from the Mwanyika team to extend the time needed to recover at least 73 per cent of the EPA loot. President Kikwete said Sh53.7 billion had so far been recovered, adding that the team hoped to get back Sh64.8 billion before the expiry of the deadline. If any of the suspects fails to repay the money, the authorities are under instructions to begin criminal prosecution as of November 1, he said. With only Sh234 million recovered, the Mwanyika team could as well get prepared to haul the suspects to court. The Citizen also learnt that the EPA team was puzzled that the owners of nine of the companies or their representatives had failed to turn up even after President Kikwete granted the extension. These nine companies account for a good share of the money that was expected to be recovered, said one of the sources, who sought anonymity. The Citizen learnt that the four companies that had requested the committee for more time to pay back the stolen money were Malegesi Law Chambers, KERNEL Limited, Clayton Marketing Services and Kiloloma & Brothers. Nobody from those companies has come up as they had pledged, the source added. None of the EPA team members was willing to give The Citizen an update on the progress made since the President's directive. We could also not establish exactly how much has been recovered since the team was appointed early in the year. While, according to our inquiries, just about Sh54 million would appear to have been recovered, the Finance minister Mustafa Mkulo was yesterday quoted by the State-owned TBC television, as saying that Sh68 billion had been netted. Mr Mkulo said the amount was minus the value of the seized properties belonging to some of the EPA suspects. The Citizen has been reliably informed that only three residential properties valued at Sh14 billion have been seized by the team. As the deadline approaches, the public is anxiously waiting to see who will be taken to court over the EPA scam. But inquires reveal that only two people could actually be in trouble as their travel documents were seized when the investigation started. The two, whose passports were seized by the task force, are prominent businessman Jeetu Patel and a director of the Malegesi Law chambers of Dar es Salaam. In his address to Parliament, President Kikwete declared that the Government would take custody of the recovered EPA funds and use the money to finance an expanded fertiliser subsidy programme for farmers. He said part of the money would be spent on re-capitalising the State-owned Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB) to offer loans to farmers. Companies confirmed as having played a part in the EPA swindle are Bencon International Limited, VB & Associates Company Limited, Bina Resorts Limited, Venus Hotel Limited, Njake Hotel and Tours, Maltan Mining Company Limited, Money Planners and Consultants and Bora Hotels and Apartments Limited. Others are BV Holdings Limited, Ndovu Soaps Limited, Navy Cut Tobacco (T) Limited, Changanyikeni Residential Complex Limited, Kagoda Agriculture Limited, G&T International Limited, Excellent Services Limited, Mibale Farm Liquidity Services Limited, Clayton Marketing Limited, M/S Rashtas (T) Limited, Malegesi Law Chambers (Advocates) Kiloloma & Brothers and KERNEL Limited.