$25m properties nabbed over BoT fraud The Bank of Tanzania headquarters in Dar es Salaam. By MIKE MANDE, JOSEPH MWAMUNYANGE and WILFRED EDWIN THE EAST AFRICAN August 23 2008 at 08:15 The Tanzanian government has confiscated property worth more than $25 million from 13 firms in a massive crackdown against people involved in the multimillion EPA scandal. The seized assets include four brand new Range Rover Vogue Supercharger 2006 Model cars - each valued at $136,916 - with a total value of $547,664 and four Mercedez Benz CLK 230 Kompressor Model cars - each valued at $28,139 - with a total value of $112,556. Other properties include apartments, hotels, petrol stations, real estate firms in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mwanza and plots in prime areas of Dar es Salaam valued at $25 million. The government is now preparing charges against the culprits whose cases will start in November this year. The properties were seized under the Emergency Powers Act. "We have confiscated the properties of those people allegedly being involved in External Payment Arrears Accounts (EPA) of the Central Bank who have become extremely wealthy by corrupt means," said President Jakaya Kikwete last week. "No one will be spared." The president said that individuals implicated in siphoning funds from the EPA account have up to November 1 to return the money or face prosecution. President Kikwete said that so far, Tsh64.8 billion ($56 million) has been recovered by the team and returned to the government, which has now created an account for the EPA money away from the Central Bank. "The Attorney General and his team recommended that the time for recovery of the said funds be extended to October 31, 2008 so as to give room for those that had requested for an extension to return the money, to do so," he said. He added: "But after November 1, 2008 all those who fail to return the money will be prosecuted. As for the other nine firms for which the committee was still seeking Interpol's help, we will have to wait until such time that the police get the necessary information in order for further action to be taken against them." The president said that there would be no extension of the October 31 deadline. The nine firms were said to have obtained the money from the Central Bank but lacked any kind of documents authorising them to access the EPA account. In order to maintain checks and balances at the Central Bank, the president said the Governor is no longer the chairman of the Board. Auditing of the bank would thus be done with a broader representation. President Kikwete revealed that some of the recovered money would be utilised to support farming by providing affordable fertiliser. Some Tsh20 billion ($11.5 million) will go to the Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB) to enhance its capacity to lend to the agricultural sector. Other recommendations by the three-man team which investigated the scandal were that the government should establish a link between the parent ministry (Finance) and the Central Bank, some of the governor's powers be diluted to encourage good governance, disciplinary action be taken against bank officers who facilitated the transactions and that further investigations be carried out on the nine firms. Although the move to confiscate the properties is widely applauded, some government critics have accused the government of lacking moral obligation to prosecute those who have returned the money. Dr Willibrod Slaa, a Chadema MP, said last week that the government should have prosecuted those who were found to have been involved in the scandal, and not just make them repay. He said that although some measures have been taken, there is no word from the president whether the fraudsters who have returned the stolen money will be taken to court. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Samwel Sitta, said President Kikwete should have adopted a tougher approach in dealing with serious allegations of grand corruption in the country, and that there should be no let up in the fight against graft. Mr Sitta said the government must become extra brutal in dealing with high-level corruption in the corridors of power. "It appears that more importance is being placed on individual rights than national interests. There is no such thing as the human rights of an individual involved in economic sabotage being violated," he said. According to Mr Sitta, the government should get tough on looters as ordinary people may find it hard to comprehend if individuals implicated in massive scandals are found walking freely in the streets. The Kigoma North MP, Zitto Kabwe, said if President Kikwete had given amnesty to EPA money looters, proper procedures should have been followed and parliament officially notified over the decision. "He did not say what action would be taken against the EPA suspects after they return the stolen money," he said.