Lead suspect in the dock : Dar court issues international arrest warrant for slippery Shailesh Vithlani SMOOTH OPERATOR? According to PCCB, Vithlani holds both British and Tanzanian passports, pictured above with a component of the controversial radar system in the background. Also pictured is a photocopy of a page from an old British passport once used by the suspect, who remains at large. THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam THE Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau has finally filed criminal charges against Shailesh Vithlani, a businessman of Asian extraction, in connection with the 28 million pounds sterling (approx. 70bn/-) military radar corruption scandal. PCCB spokesperson Ms Mary Mosha confirmed at a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday that corruption charges against the main agent behind the 2002 radar deal were filed at the Kisutu Resident Magisrates Court on Thursday of last week. Vithlani, however, was charged in absentia as he is understood to have left the country sometime ago on what appears to have become an extended trip abroad. Ms Mosha said presiding magistrate Sivangilwa Mwangesi issued an arrest warrant for Vithlani, and proceeded to adjourn the criminal case number 1474 of 2007 to November 30 when it comes up for mention. But authorities also admit to being currently in the dark about the actual whereabouts of the businessman. According to the PCCB, the 42-year-old Vithlani is believed to hold both British and Tanzanian passports, despite the fact that Tanzanias immigration laws prohibit dual citizenship. At the same time, investigations by THISDAY have uncovered a British passport used by the businessman, with the full name of Shailesh Pragji Pradhan Vithlani printed on the travel document bearing UK passport number C387266A. Our investigations have also established that Vithlani maintains a home in the UK, but keeps rented premises in Tanzania. The much-awaited commencement of prosecution proceedings in relation to the radar deal follows long-running corruption investigations by local authorities working with counterparts from Britains Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Ms Mosha said the PCCB has already informed Interpol about the arrest warrant issued by the Dar es Salaam court against Vithlani. If the suspect does not voluntarily present himself to authorities, he will be apprehended wherever he is because an international arrest warrant has already been issued against him, she declared. A series of exclusive THISDAY reports had already identified Vithlani as one of the key figures in the radar deal, in which around $12m (approx. 15bn/-) in illegal kickbacks were allegedly paid to officials in the third phase government of former president Benjamin Mkapa, to approve the deal. Speaking to the media yesterday, the PCCB spokesperson said investigations were still ongoing against other possible suspects, and more accused persons could well be joined in the prosecution charge sheet in future. And according to our sources, authorities in Tanzania are also planning a move to freeze a key Swiss bank account believed to have been used to pay out to government officials the illegal kickbacks related to the controversial radar deal. Vithlani is understood to have represented the British defence manufacturer company BAE Systems in the radar deal through his own Dar es Salaam-based company Merlin International Limited. BAE Systems is alleged to have made the kickback payments through Vithlani as part of the deal details. Merlin International was registered in Mwanza on March 27, 1986, with Vithlani a majority shareholder with 8,000 shares and his then business partner Tanil Somaiya holding 2,000 shares. But Somaiya, who also owns the Shivacom Group of companies in Dar es Salaam, is reported to have voluntarily ceased being a shareholder and director of Merlin International since January this year. Even so, this was long after the 2002 radar deal had been concluded. Apart from the radar deal, Merlin International Limited and another company owned by Vithlani - Vithcorp Food Packers � have also been linked to a string of other suspect, multi-billion shilling government contracts including the supply of the Gulfstream presidential jet and over 600 Italian-make IVECO military trucks plus military choppers for the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF).