Rugemalira ready to spill the beans on who stole IPTL escrow money

23Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Rugemalira ready to spill the beans on who stole IPTL escrow money

TANZANIAN business tycoon James Rugemalira asked a Dar es Salaam court yesterday to grant him audience with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Biswalo Mganga, so he can present to him evidence on the identity of the real culprit who stole money from the infamous IPTL Tegeta escrow account.

TANZANIAN business tycoon James Rugemalira

Rugemalira, who owned a minority 30 per cent stake in Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL), was arraigned in court in June this year to answer charges of economic sabotage, grand corruption and other related crimes that caused the government to suffer a loss of over 300 billion/-.

He was jointly charged with the owner Pan African Power Solutions (PAP), Harbinder Singh Sethi, who took over the Dar es Salaam-based power plant under murky circumstances.

But Rugemalira told the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court yesterday that he was innocent of all charges and pleaded with the magistrate to allow him to meet with the DPP so he can submit to him incriminating evidence on an unnamed individual who actually stole the money.

“I have come here today with some evidence and would therefore like to meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions to help him identify the real thief who should be arrested," he told the court.

Rugemalira made the request after a prosecutor from the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), Leonard Swai, said investigations were incomplete and asked the court to adjourn the case.

Critics of the government's handling of the IPTL escrow account scandal say several political heavyweights, who are alleged to have withdrawn huge sums of money from the account and packed it in sacks, were yet to be arrested.

Prosecutors allege that between November 2013 and January 2014, Rugemalira and Sethi conspired to fraudulently acquire from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) a total of $22 million and 309 billion/- from the escrow account.

The money was allegedly acquired separately by the two suspects from Stanbic Bank Tanzania's Kinondoni branch and Mkombozi Commercial Bank’s St Joseph’s Cathedral branch, both in Dar es Salaam.

Sethi is furthermore charged with transferring 1.3 million South African Rand to a Standard Bank account in Sandton, Johannesburg, while knowing that the money was proceeds from illegal dealings.

Sethi and Rugemalira are prime suspects in the infamous IPTL escrow account scandal which rocked Tanzania in 2014. 

The National Assembly endorsed resolutions back in September 2014 for all key suspects behind the scandal to be taken to court.

The scandal led some Western donors to delay crucial aid disbursements to the country. It also resulted in the resignations of two cabinet ministers, the then attorney general, and sackings of several other top government officials.

Sethi is the much-disputed owner of IPTL through his Pan African Power Solutions (PAP) company, and Rugemalira through his VIP Engineering company is a former shareholder of the independent power producer.

Sethi is also alleged to have forged documents purporting to show that he is a Tanzanian citizen, while he is a foreign national.

According to PCCB boss Valentine Mlowola, the case will eventually be transferred to the Economic, Corruption and Organised Crime Court for hearing.