THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court on Thursday ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to respond to the request by a businessman Harbinder Sethi and Advocate Joseph Makandege, who want to enter into plea bargaining agreement in the 350bn/- economic trial.
Principal Resident Magistrate Huruma Shaidi gave such orders after considering submissions presented by counsel for the two accused persons after expiry of 30 days the court had granted in terms of Rule 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining) Rules, 2021 published by Chief Justice, Prof. Ibrahim Juma.
“We adjourn these proceedings to April 22nd . The DPP should respond to the matter. Although the Rules are silent on this issue, it is not proper to remain silent. The accused persons want to know if he is ready or not to enter into the agreement,” the magistrate said.
He acknowledged that the court, on February 25, directed the prosecution and defence to meet and conclude the negotiations leading to the plea bargaining agreement, but the time given have expired and the Rules were silence what should be done thereafter after expiry of the time given.
In order to meet the ends of justice, the magistrate granted other 15 days within which the parties could conclude the negotiation with the prosecution compelled to report on the next mention date on their position on the matter.
Earlier, the defence team comprising Dolla Malaba, Joseph Sungwa, Alex Balomi and Juma Chuma, complained that since February 25 when the court directed the negotiations to be conducted, the office of the DPP has remained mum despite their clients expressing intention to plea bargain.
They told the court that it appeared the prosecution has no interest in entering into the negotiations and, thus pushed for the investigations into the trial surrounding affairs of the Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL) to be closed so that the hearing could take off.
Advocate Sungwa, in particular, submitted that the investigations process started on June 19, 2017 when the accused persons were arraigned in court and that of on Thursday four years have passed. Ms Malaba added that by June, the accused will attain five years of incarceration.
“What type of investigation is this? Our clients are suffering in time and every day we are told same stories of incomplete investigations. We are not even told at what stage the investigation has reached. The prosecution is just relaxing. Our prayer is that investigations should be closed,” she submitted.
The advocates asked the court to take judicial notice of the position given by President Samia Suluhu Hassan recently, for the prosecution to drop baseless cases that are pending in court or expedite investigations on meritorious trials of which prosecution was likely to win.
In responding to grievances by the defence, the prosecution led by Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon and State Attorney Faraj Nguka, informed the court that investigations were going on, but would communicate with the investigative machineries to expedite the process.
As regard to the plea bargaining issue, the trial attorneys were of the views that it was the defence advocates who were to blame themselves as since the court ordered the negotiations to be conducted they never set foot to the office of the DPP to facilitate the process. In the trial, the two accused persons are charged jointly with prominent businessman James Rugemalira with conspiracy, leading organized crime, forgery, uttering false document, obtaining money by false pretences, occasioning loss to a specified authority and money laundering.
Between October 18, 2011 and March 19, 2014, at various places in Dar es Salaam in the United Republic of Tanzania and various places in Republic of Kenya, South Africa and the Republic of India, jointly and together, they allegedly conspired to commit an offence obtaining money by false pretences.
Within the same period in the city of Dar es Salaam, the prosecution alleged, being not public officials but in collusion with public officers, all accused persons intentionally and knowingly managed, financed and furthered the objectives of a criminal racket with intent to reap profit or other benefit.
Between November 29, 2013 and January 23, 2014 at Stanbic Bank Limited, Centre Branch in Kinondoni District and at Mkombozi Commercial Bank PLC, St. Joseph Branch in Ilala District, by false pretences, Rugemalira and Sethi obtained 22,198,544.60 US dollars and 309,461,300,158/27