State ‘in hot pursuit’ of dubious mineral dealers

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STATE Organs are hot on the heels of both former and current officers involved in the monitoring and sanctioning of diamond deals as directed by the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Phillip Mpango, following the undervalued diamond impounded at the Julius Nyerere International Airport en route to Belgium from Mwadui Diamond Mine.

The diamond, impounded on August 31 -- a few minutes before the aircraft left the country’s global gateway – and exported by Williamson Diamonds Ltd, was undervalued and pegged at US $14.7 million against its market actual value at US $29.5 million dollars.

Speaking to the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) Director General, Mr Valentino Mlowola, said investigations had since been launched as directed by the minister – but declined further details – only pledging that the public would be informed at an ‘appropriate time.’

Both the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Director for Taxpayer Services and Education, Mr Richard Kayombo and the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Biswalo Mganga maintained that the directives were being implemented as directed by the minister.

“The directives as issued by Mr Mpango (finance minister) are being implemented … at this point I cannot comment anything.

But when the time is right the public will be duly informed,” Mr Kayombo said. Dr Mpango who was receiving a report on the smuggled diamond on behalf of President John Magufuli ordered the arrests of former and current officers involved in monitoring and sanctioning of diamond business, including establishing “the legality” of their acquired property.

The minister ordered the police, PCCB and other law enforcement agents to investigate the property belonging to the suspects (of impounded diamond), with a view to establishing if they were legitimately acquired before confiscating them to compensate for the loss.

He also intimated that the government had confiscated the gemstones for violations of the East African Customs Management Act of 2004, section 210.

In part, this section states, in subsection G: “ … In addition to any other circumstances in which goods are liable to forfeiture under this Act, the following goods shall be liable to forfeiture … any goods in respect of which, in any matter relating to the Customs, any entry, declaration, certificate, application or other document, answer, statement or representation, which is knowingly false or knowingly incorrect in any particular case has been delivered, made or produced.”

The minister called upon the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to come up with a special arrangement to start establishing mineral reserves, as do other parts across the world, instead of concentrating on cash reserve alone.

The list of orders issued by the minister also included the purchase of modern weighing equipment that would facilitate the sorting of gemstones in terms of weight to facilitate proper valuing.

These orders come just days after President Magufuli received two reports from two parliamentary select committees, separately detailing dubious deals involving diamond and Tanzanite, respectively.

Following ‘revealing’ dealing contained in the reports, Dr Magufuli ordered a review of Petra Diamonds’ contract and asked senior public officials to resign over the outcome of the investigation by the two House committees.

As a direct consequence, the Minister of State in the President’s Office, Mr George Simbachawene and Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Mr Edwin Ngonyani bowed out.

In retrospect, the government had earlier passed new laws to increase mining taxes, to force companies to renegotiate their contracts and to allow the state to own a significant stake in mining companies.

The laws, the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) and the Natural Wealth and Resources Contracts (Review and Re-negotiation of Unconscionable Terms), could also raise increased royalty taxes, under which the government would receive six per cent of all gold, copper, silver and platinum exports instead of the previous four per cent.

The head of state is on mission to overhaul the country’s mining industry, with the government targeting a doubling of its GDP contribution to at least 10% by 2025.

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