Tanzania starts prosecuting high-profile graft cases

Saturday July 15 2017

Harbinder Singh Sethi is a key figure in the

Harbinder Singh Sethi is a key figure in the Tegeta Escrow Account scandal. PHOTO | FILE | NMG 

By APOLINARI TAIRO
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Key figures in the Tegeta Escrow Account scandal, Harbinder Singh Sethi and James Rugemalira on Friday appeared before a Dar es Salaam Resident Magistrate Court for the second time.

They are facing charges of occasioning a loss of more than Tsh358 billion ($158 million), causing a loss of government money through economic sabotage, forgery, impersonation, running a criminal syndicate and obtaining money through false pretence.

The suspects were denied bail and were remanded at the Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam until July 28, when the matter will come up again for mention. This was after the prosecution side asked the court for more time to conduct investigations.

Two High Court judges implicated in the scandal have since resigned, with former minister for energy and minerals William Ngeleja surrendering to the taxman the money he is said to have received from one of the beneficiaries.

Parliamentary recommendation

Mr Sethi and Mr Rugemalira were named in Parliament in 2014 as having overseen a plan which saw money drawn from a joint account of the Independent Power Tanzania Ltd and Tanzania Electric Supply Company at the Bank of Tanzania. Part of the money, according to the investigations, was dished out to politicians, government officials, some judges and religious leaders.

Parliament recommended that the suspects be prosecuted.

Mr Sethi, who mostly lives in South Africa, was intercepted at Julius Nyerere International Airport last month as he and his wife were about to fly out. Their case was mentioned for the first time on June 19 after his arrest.

Two High Court Judges implicated in the case as recipients of the money from Mr Rugemalira tendered their resignation letters. Justice Aloysis Mujulizi who is said to have received Tsh40.4 million ($ 20,000) resigned last month while Justice John Ruhangisa, who allegedly pocketed Tsh404.25 million ($200,000), tendered his resignation letter to the Chief Justice last week.

Other personalities implicated in the Tegeta scandal include the former minister for lands Prof Anna Tibaijuka who allegedly received Tsh1.6 billion ($600,000) and former director of the Tanzania Investment Centre Emmanuel ole-Naiko, who is said to have pocketed Tsh40.4 million ($20,000).