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Recovering looted funds from off-shore accounts

This in itself isn't a bad thing -- especially considering that diligent Governments and nation states need to hold foreign reserves to cover their imports bills and other contingencies. But, most worrisome is that, in this particular case, the funds do NOT belong to the Govt. or the state... Not yet, anyway! The moneys are lying (idle) in secret off-shore bank accounts of a few (Tanzanian) individuals contrary to our laws and procedures.

Relative to Tanzania's liquidity position, the funds are considerable: about Tsh315.5bn at conservative estimates. And, considering that only about 27 individuals claim their 'ownership,' this makes the issue even more serious, calling for urgent remedial measures. According to the Govt. ki-Swahili daily 'Habari Leo' published in Dar on Aug. 16, 2012, information released last June by Swiss authorities said the account-holders are from both the public and private sectors, the former being Govt. officials, while the latter are business operators.

In the event, speaking in Parliament, Shadow Finance Minister Zitto Kabwe unequivocally urged the Govt. in Dar to publish details of the accountholders! Presenting the official political Opposition Camp's alternate budgetary proposals for the Ministry in the august House, Kabwe also asked the Govt. to take measures to recover the illegally-stashed loot in the national interest.

This Lucubration humbly seeks to propose how best the authorities can/should go about recovering the 'small fortune,' with minimal harm/loss all round. But, before coming to that, we should acquaint ourselves with the intriguing issues... For instance, much of the loot is illegally associated with the granting (by officials of dubious probity) of operating licences in Tanzania's highly lucrative natural resources sectors, especially minerals and petroleum.

The licences were mostly granted to foreign exploration and mining companies in the first decade of this century! However, not all the moneys came from Govt. licensing. According to the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), some of the money came from other (equally illegal) sources beginning as early as in the First Phase Independence Govt. of Founder President Julius Nyerere (1962-85)! It was spirited out of Tanzania and secreted in private offshore bank accounts [Mwananchi: Aug. 19, 2012].

Up to US$7.967bn (roughly Tsh12.7trn at current exchange rates) was secretly moved out of the country down the years to 2009... About $3.493bn (roughly Tsh5.5trn) was spirited out during the Mwalimu Nyerere Regime alone! Another $2.108bn (Tsh3.3trn) was spirited out during the Benjamin Mkapa Presidency (1995-2005)! Oh, there's much more than this in the GFI postings, which can readily be accessed on the Internet...

But, no matter... As it is, the Govt. is somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does it have the relevant facts and figures of the misdeeds in full? If yes: should it release them for public consumption or not? All that notwithstanding, however, I'm of the view that the need for Tanzania to recover the loot should be paramount over everything else! Indeed, crimes have been committed by the account-holders -- in which case they deserve being penalized!

But, the fact that the 'owners' have been uncomfortably sitting on the money all these years without (perhaps) been able to openly use same, depriving them of the loot in one fell swoop would be the better option, sweetest 'revenge' so to say! This is looking at it all from the practicability and pragmatic stand-points -- including that financiallystrapped Tanzania could do very well with all that foreign exchange! Regarding how we should go about recovering same, Dar already has firsthand experience...

The Govt. did grant immunity from prosecution to the looters of the external payment arrears (EPA) account at the central Bank of Tanzania who repaid the money. In the event, US$63m was recovered in 2008 from 13 of the 22 firms which had looted a
total of $131m! If that ploy worked relatively well, we could -- with similarly providential prudence -- apply the same tactic mutatis mutandis (with the necessary changes) in this latest case.

The pragmatism of this is that a bird in hand (the recovered money) is always better than 27 (jail) birds -- but with the funds lost to unknown folk abroad! In other words, prudence sometimes requires that we once in a while make an exception to extant rule(s) to derive maximum benefit from an awkward situation...

Cheers!

A FORMER sports editor with the ‘Daily News’ ...

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Author: KARL LYIMO

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