Posted Date:: 17.01.2008 @00:04 EAT Sh500 billion siphoned out of BoT in three years By The Citizen Team About Sh501 billion ($433 million) was lost in four questionable deals at the Bank of Tanzania between 2004 and 2007, The Citizen has established. According to details obtained this week, the cash was siphoned out through the External Payments Arrears (EPA) account and the Meremeta, Tangold and BoT Twin Towers projects. About 80 per cent of the money was paid out during the Third Phase Government while the rest was taken in the first few months of the Fourth Phase Government. The details show that Sh155 billion was irregularly paid out in the Meremeta gold project alone, according to the Controller and Auditor Generals audit report for the financial year ending June 30, 2006. A total of $118,396,460.36 was paid into an unknown account at Ned Bank Ltd of South Africa through HSBC of New York, whereby the balance of $13,736,628.73 was deposited in the Tangold account at the National Bank of Commerce (NBC) Corporate Branch in Dar es Salaam. The payments were made at the directive of senior BoT officials, investigations by The Citizen have established. It has further been established that the liquidated Meremeta Gold Co Ltd was registered in the UK as an offshore company with the registration number 3424504. The company was issued with a certificate of registration in London on August 19, 1997. It was then registered in Tanzania as a branch of a foreign company on October 3, 1997, obtaining a certificate of compliance number 32755. Various documents show that the Treasury held 50 per cent of the shares in Meremeta, with the rest being owned by a South African firm called Trienex (PTY) Co Ltd. But it was also established that two London-based companies London Law Services Ltd and London Law Secretarial Service Ltd owned shares in Meremeta Gold Co Ltd. The company wound up three years ago, leaving its debts to be cleared by the Government under controversial circumstances. Another deal that cost the nation billions of taxpayers money was the Twin Towers project, which emerging details show that its actual cost was grossly inflated. In April 2006, Finance Minister Zakhia Meghji told Parliament that the buildings were estimated to cost about 200 billion upon their completion. But one year later, the cost skyrocketed to nearly Shs418 billion, according to details released in September 2007 by BoT itself. Through this project alone, the nation is estimated to have lost close to Sh200 billion since it was conceived about eight years ago. A further Sh133 billion was lost in irregular payments through the EPA accounts in 2005/6, according to an audit carried out by Ernst and Young. Transactions involving Tangold Co Ltd consumed $13,736,628.73 (about Sh17 billion). The Citizen has established that Tangold is a firm registered as an offshore company in Mauritus where it was issued with a registration certificate number C205006121 on April 8, 2005. The company was then subsequently registered in Tanzania as a branch of foreign company and given a certificate of compliance number 55661 dated February 20, 2006. Since its registration, no returns or audited accounts have been submitted, casting doubts on its legality and authenticity. A senior BoT official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Citizen, After the EPA investigation, there is a need to thoroughly investigate the other deals. When contacted yesterday, Finance minister Zakia Meghji said the Government was conducting investigations step by step, and vowed that no stone would be left unturned. The Twin Towers project is being investigated by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau they have made significant progress so far, she said by telephone. Ms Meghji added, however, that she was not aware if Meremetas and Tangolds involvement in the loss of billions of shilling from BoT was also being investigated.