The contradicting statements are so frequent that they create a warbling chorus of double-talk, with one clear note rising above the rest: to obfuscate the truth and protect the powerful individuals behind Kagoda from legal repercussions.
Just last week the constitutional and justice affairs minister, Mathias Chikawe, said there was no clear evidence to prosecute the owners of Kagoda Co Ltd, insisting that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had not been given credible evidence.
A few days later, the Business Regulatory and Licensing Authority (BRELA) issued a statement denying that Kagoda’s files had gone missing. BRELA added that ‘the Kagoda file was taken by the investigators under special instructions’ from State House, early last year. A day after Brela’s statement, the director of communication at the office of the president issued a strong statement denying that the Kagoda file was at State House.
And now the DPP and Director of Criminal Investigation can’t decide which of them has the file. On Friday, DCI Robert Manumba said in The Guardian that he had completed the investigation and sent the file to the office of the DPP, but when contacted, the DPP’s Eliezer Feleshi insisted that the investigation needed further work done and as such he had sent the file back to Manumba.
Cover-up amid incriminating evidence
According to available evidence from both BRELA and the Bank of Tanzania, Kagoda was officially registered on September 29, 2005, and given Certificate of Incorporation Number 54040. The registration was witnessed by nominated MP Benson Mwang’onda, who at the time wrote on the documents that he was an accountant with local firm Khatco Management Ltd.
Records show that a John Kyomuhendo and a Francis William own the company, but thorough investigation established that these were fake names.
Still, Mwang’onda, who is a nominated Member of Parliament appointed by the ruling party, has yet to disclose publicly what he knows about Kagoda, and it is unknown whether he has been thoroughly interrogated by the investigators.
Nor has the DCI interrogated, to public knowledge, Dar es Salaam based lawyer B.M Saze, who signed and processed all the registration forms for the dubious company, which obtained 30 percent of the US $ 131 million looted from the Bank of Tanzania’s account.
Since the lawyer is a registered advocate, notary public and commissioner for oaths working at Maregesi and Co Advocates, he should be in a position to reveal the real names or identities of the clients who assigned him to register the Kagoda company.
Beyond interrogating those who were present at or who had knowledge of the registration process, surely ample evidence of who was running the company could be found by probing the five accounts opened by Kagoda Company Ltd at CRDB banks between September 2005 and June 2006.
Standard banking procedures require that the operators of all accounts — and especially ordinary current accounts such as these —provide identification, home addresses, referees and business licences, all of which should be on file at CRDB for the Kagoda accounts.
Beyond that, the CRDB bank should have on record any withdrawals from the accounts, for which the accounts’ operators would have filled cheques or bank slips.
The available evidence shows that the directors of Kagoda Company on the BRELA registration records are not the ones who operated the CRDB accounts, indicating that there are more than just these two fake names involved.
A confusing, and costly past Last October, the public was informed that Kagoda was among the few companies that returned the looted billions as ordered by the head of state.
In August, while addressing Parliament in Dodoma, President Kikwete issued a 60 day ultimatum to 13 companies that siphoned a total of almost 60 million US $, -90 billion in Tanzanian shillings (Tzs)-, from the EPA accounts.
If the companies did not return the money they had stolen before October 31, the government would take legal action, he said. When the deadline expired, the Attorney General-led taskforce declared that the looters, including the Kagoda Company, had returned a total of 70 bn Tzs (US $ 46 million).
Three weeks later, one of the members of the AG-led taskforce told The Guardian on Sunday that Kagoda paid a total of 40 bn Tzs (US$ 26 million), but he could not reveal whether the billions were paid in cash or cheque.
“Trust me they [Kagoda] returned the money…The truth is that they returned the money and we have done a credible job,” said one official from the Task Force, who declined to be named because he was not the official spokesperson for the taskforce.
If Kagoda was able to return the looted billions, it must have legitimate owners, and if the government received the money from representatives from Kagoda, it must know who they are.
And yet government officials maintain that they are still dumbfounded as to who could have been behind the Kagoda Company’s front.
The cover-up surrounding the Kagoda Company didn’t start last week, of course. It has been part of a finely orchestrated dance coordinated by some top officials from the third phase regime aimed at protecting the real owners of Kagoda — and assumedly high-ranking politicians.
The smokescreen first went up in 2006 when news broke that the company was one of 22 that had swindled US $ 86 million, 133 billion Tzs, from the EPA account.
Acting under the directive of top government and party officials, former Central Bank governor, the late Daudi Ballali, lied to then-Finance Minister Zakhia Meghji that the looted billions were being used for activities relating to national security.
The former governor’s move came after South African based auditing firm Deloitte & Touche raised an audit query on the billions that the BoT had paid to Kagoda.
Responding to the letter without knowing the clear picture, Meghji wrote a letter dated September 6, 2006, informing the South African auditing firm that “the US $ 33 million paid to Kagoda was used for the matters of national security interest and therefore not subject for auditing.”
But four days after writing the letter, Meghji discovered that she had been duped by Ballali, and she wrote another letter overruling her earlier defence of Kagoda.
“I did so after my Permanent Secretary [GrayMgonja] told me that the US $ 33 million were not used for security matters as claimed by the governor…I discovered that he [Ballali] lied to me,” she told the press early last year.
After Deloitte & Touche questioned the legality of theKagoda payments, the BoT terminated the auditing contract altogether and Meghji was politically ostracized, though she would stay in her post until February 2008.
Then in November 2007, Parliament pushed the government to hire a second auditing firm, Ernst and Young, to go back to the EPA account and investigate further.
After Ernst and Young released its report in January 2008, confirming the corruption and illegality that the Deloitte & Touche report had originally suggested, politicians rushed to protect Kagoda’s beneficiaries once again.
This time, some top party and government officials including the opposition used the media to claim that the company was a front for CCM, and was established to raise money for the party’s campaigns in the 2005 general election.
It seems the intention to tie Kagoda to the ruling party has been primarily to avoid prosecution by threatening that any legal action against the company would in turn expose the government and the ruling party, taking everything down with it.
It is a move that appears to be succeeding at the short-run, but bound to fail at long-run.
To some extent, this stand has been strongly maintained by some top government officials today, vowing in various private meetings to protect the individuals behind Kagoda at any cost.
Even if Kagoda did fund CCM’s 2005 campaigns, the total campaign budget for the ruling party in the 2005 election did not exceed US $ 13 million,- while what Kagoda is charged with stealing double that amount.
So where did the rest of the money go? And more puzzling is that nearly every company that swindled money from the EPA account has claimed to have financed the 2005 general election as one of the conditions for fast-track payments from the Central Bank of Tanzania.
During the interrogation, some suspects told the AG-led taskforce that the agreement was that 40 percent of whatever payments they received would have to be donated to the party.
Some suspects submitted dozens of memos purportedly written by former top officials from the ruling party and the third phase regime.
One of the memos to the former governor read: “Greetings from the party; I am introducing to you this gentleman who is among those seeking their payments from EPA accounts. He has agreed to donate 40 percent to the party as the cost of financing our election campaign; he is coming to see you for implementation, please do assist him.”
Very powerful officials within the governments and from the ruling party have been protecting Kagoda’s owners; that much is clear. But, just how long they will continues to protect these thieves — as their criminal counterparts are taken to court — remains to be seen.