11 November 2012

Tanzania: Lupita Lodge Investor Probed Over Alleged Tax Evasion

Sumbawanga — THE Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Arusha is probing tax information regarding a Tanzanian national of British origin, Mr Tom Lithgow, who owns Lupita Lodge located at Lupita Island in Rukwa Region, over allegations of tax evasion.

The TRA (in Arusha) has also instructed its counterpart in Rukwa to visit the investor's Lodge at Lupita island, located in Kipili village, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Nkasi district, to assess the extent of his businesses in the region.Rukwa TRA Manager, Mr Philip Kimune, has said here that the measures were taken after whistle blowers in the region reported to TRA officials that the investor has been evading tax.

"I have contacted colleagues in TRA Arusha who assured that they were investigating the matter seriously, while at the same time checking their records to establish whether the investor has been evading tax or not," Mr Kimune said.He told the 'Sunday News' here that he planned to visit Kipili in Lupila Island to establish the size of the businesses the investor is running, saying he received response from them that they will cooperate.

According to Mr Kimune, the investor's lodge was registered in Arusha, which gives the Arusha TRA an upper hand to deal with the matter.However, efforts by this reporter to get clarification from Lupita Lodge management on the tax evasion allegations proved futile, after several attempts to reach the managers failed.

Last month, the ownership of Lupita Lodge management was a subject for investigation by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development.The Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Prof Anna Tibaijuka, was quoted saying that she had already directed the director of legal affairs at the ministry to probe the matter and submit the findings to the ministry as soon as possible.

Through text message, Prof Tibaijuka told this paper that her ministry considered Mr Tom Lithwog's ownership of Lupita Island illegal because no legal documents were available at the ministry to establish the legality of such possession.The Deputy Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, Aggrey Mwanri, directed the Rukwa Regional Commissioner, Eng. Stella Manyanya to conduct thorough investigation on what was going on with Lupita Island Lodge along the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Mr Mwanri also tasked the Rukwa regional security organs to investigate allegation of sale of weapons through Lupita Island Lodge to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).Mr Mwanri reacted in that manner when addressing a Public rally held at Msakila Secondary School grounds in Sumbawanga town. His remarks followed concerns by local residents of the islands surrounding the lodge that the investor was humiliating them.

The deputy minister also banned the investor from restricting the residents from carrying out their economic activities, including fishing on Lake Tanganyika and that no one should be restricted from passing near the tourist lodge.RC Manyanya was quoted as saying that it was too early to comment on the allegations that the investor was also engaged in illegal arms smuggling to DRC, saying; "This allegation needs serious investigation."

On the website of his company, Tanzania by Firelight, Lupita Island Lodge is one of the company's luxury tented camps as it reads " Lupita Island is the ultimate private retreat, offering luxurious accommodations set amidst pristine natural habitat."Located on Lake Tanganyika in Western Tanzania , the 130-acre private island resort has eleven lavishly decorated, thatched living spaces and two family cottages that offer uninterrupted view of Africa's second largest lake," the company says on its website posting.

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