Samia: Tanzania’s plea bargaining money illegally stashed in China

Wednesday February 01 2023
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan who has revealed that most of the money that was collected through plea-bargaining agreements cannot be traced and is suspected to be stashed in China. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN



Tanzania’s office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has come under scrutiny after President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday revealed that most of the money that was collected through plea-bargaining agreements cannot be traced and is suspected to be stashed in China.

Speaking in Dodoma, the president said the government is investigating a bank account in China where money collected from plea-bargaining agreements by the DPP's office was stashed abroad.

“Part of the plea-bargaining funds can be traced, but most of it is not available, if you trace [track] you will be told that there is an account in China," she said.

But she did not say the exact amount that is missing and who is the owner of the said offshore account where the money has been stashed.

Serious economic crimes


Under her predecessor, the late John Pombe Magufuli, billions of shillings were squeezed from businessmen who were facing serious economic crimes in plea bargain deals for the victims to be set free.

On April 28, 2021 the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs Palamagamba Kabudi told Parliament that between July 2020 and March 2021, the DPP’s office had collected TSh35.07 billion ($15 million) from 192 cases after the accused pleaded guilty.

However, according to the report by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), there was a total of TSh51 billion ($22 million) in state coffers collected though the plea-bargaining arrangement as of April 2021.

The CAG, Mr Charles Kichere, is on record as having said that his office was investigating the money collected through the plea-bargaining arrangement, saying the report would be ready in March 2023.

In June 2021, the DPP, Mr Sylvester Mwakitalu, said his office was finalising compensation payments from the special accounts that holds money paid by criminals who plead guilty so that it can be returned to the owners.

The assurance by DPP Mwakitalu came at a time when stakeholders, including lawyers, were questioning the amount paid into the account, calling it an individual account and questioning its use.

The special account at the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) was reportedly opened by former DPP Biswalo Mganga for the purpose of receiving and keeping monies paid by defendants who plead guilty in accordance with the plea-bargaining agreement between the two parties.

Why plea bargaining?

Tanzania under the late President Magufuli amended its criminal laws in 2019 to introduce, among others, the plea-bargaining arrangement.

With the rise in the number of unbailable economic sabotage cases during the Magufuli regime, it was deemed fit to put in place an arrangement that would bring the prosecutor and the accused to a negation table.

However, the interesting part was that the plea-bargaining arrangement actually started two years before the amendments were passed in parliament.

Besides, even after endorsing the amendments, implementation continued without putting in place the regulations that would make the law operational. Regulations were only introduced in February 2021.


Several known cases have involved plea-bargaining deals including that of the owner of Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL) Harbinder Seth Singh who agreed to pay TSh26 billion ($11 million) and walked to freedom four years after he was arrested over economic crimes in 2017.

Former president of Pangea, North Mara Gold Mines, Mr Deogratius Mwanyika, and six other accused people agreed to pay TSh1.5 billion ($642,000) each.

Another known case is that of the director of Mr Kuku Farmer Ltd, Tariq Machibya, famously known as Mr Kuku, who agreed to pay TSh5.4 billion ($2.3 million) for fraud.

Journalist Eric Kabendera in February 2020 paid TSh172 million ($74, 000) as compensation after he was arrested on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and leading a gang of organised criminals.

The list also includes former Vodacom Tanzania’s managing director Hisham Hendi and other executives at the telecom firm who walked to freedom after paying about TSh6 billion ($2.6 million) under the plea-bargaining arrangement.