THISDAY CORRESPONDENT Musoma THE former Minister for Defence and National Service, Prof. Philemon Sarungi, has denied any personal involvement or criminal wrongdoing in the controversial dealings surrounding the Buhemba gold mine in Mara Region. Sarungi recently came under sharp criticism from some residents of Buhemba over the handling of the mine, which was previously under the control of the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF). He explained that during his two-year spell as defence minister, he never went against government decisions nor ever received any monetary gain from the mine. The ex-minister said he retired from government a poor man, with an outstanding 8m/- debt for the purchase of a government house in Dar es Salaam. I am being turned into a scapegoat? I was merely implementing government decisions, he said, adding: I am not corrupt?I am a clean man who has always been diligently executing decisions made by the government. Sarungi said after the Buhemba mine experienced a huge financial crisis, the TPDF handed it over to the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. Recently, residents of Buhemba, in a meeting with the Musoma Rural Member of Parliament, Nimrod Mkono, asked the governments mining sector review committee chaired by former attorney general Mark Bomani to question ex-president Benjamin Mkapa and former prime minister Edward Lowassa about the Buhemba mine, which has now been closed down. The villagers sought answers from the government on who currently owns the mine and why the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) has been pouring billions of shillings into the project. Under the stewardship of disgraced ex-governor Daudi Ballali, the BoT paid into a foreign bank account over $118m (approx. 150bn/-) to liquidate a loan issued to the now-defunct Meremeta Gold Mine company, which was running the mine. The money was dished out as part of the process of liquidating the Meremeta company, which nevertheless was in fact a joint venture project owned on a 50-50 basis by the Tanzanian government and a private South African firm going by the name of Trinnex (Pty) Limited. After the mine went bankrupt, all assets and liabilities of the Meremeta company - including the Buhemba Gold mine ? were transferred to TANGOLD Limited, a new company supposedly wholly-owned by the Tanzanian government. The BoT subsequently made a highly-questionable $13.34m (approx. 17bn/-) payment to the TANGOLD company. Investigations by THISDAY have already established that TANGOLD Limited was registered as an offshore company in Port Louis, Mauritius in April 2005, with at least five top government functionaries listed as directors. They included Ballali; the long-serving permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Gray Mgonja; the then attorney general Andrew Chenge; the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Patrick Rutabanzibwa; and the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Livestock Development, Vincent Mrisho. A company listed at London and Nasdaq stock exchanges, RANDGOLD Resources - incorporated in the Channel Islands - announced in August 2005 that it had signed a joint venture agreement with the Tanzanian government to develop new mineral deposits in the same Buhemba area. According to the companys media statement at the time, the deal was known as the Tangold agreement and related to a specific area of interest, this being the Kiabakari Maji, which covers 2,692 square kilometres around the Buhemba mine but not the mine itself.