10 January 2013

Tanzania: DPP Lays Grounds to Pin Mahalu

THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has advanced more than four grounds of appeal to challenge the acquittal of ambassador, Prof. Costa Ricky Mahalu and counsellor Grace Martin, on the 2.5bn/- theft case connected to the embassy building transaction in Italy.

"We filed the memorandum of appeal a long time ago, probably in October and we have advanced more than four grounds to support our case)," the DPP, Eliezer Felesh, told the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam.

He dismissed rumours that the DPP had opposed the acquittal of Mahalu alone saying, "We have appealed against both defendants." Lawyers for the two defendants in the matter, Alex Mgongolwa and Cuthbert Tenga, respectively said that as of yesterday the DPP's office had not yet been presented to them with the pleading of the appeal.

Information from impeccable sources from the High Court, where the appeal would be heard claim that the original case file has not been transferred from the trial court of Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in the city.

On August 9, last year, the Principal Resident Magistrate in Charge of the Court, Ilvin Mugeta, found the former ambassador to Italy (Mahalu) and Martin not guilty of all six offences they were charged with after the prosecution failed to prove them beyond reasonable doubts.

"The prosecution has failed to present tangible and cogent evidence. It instead came with circumstantial evidence and failed to prove its case," the magistrate declared when delivering the judgment in the case.

During the trial, the prosecution had alleged that on September 23, 2002 at the Tanzania Embassy in Italy, being persons employed by the government, the two used payment vouchers containing false particulars that the embassy building in Rome cost 3,098,741.58 euros. It was further alleged that Prof.

Mahalu used two contracts with one showing that the sale price of the chancery's building was 1,032,913 euros and the second one putting it at 3,098,741 Euros -- a deliberate move to steal the government's money.

But in the judgment, Magistrate Mugeta said he had found no direct evidence to substantiate allegations that the use of the two contracts amounted to criminal offence. "The argument was self defeating," said the magistrate.

He added on that point, "Prosecution might have deliberately omitted to tender some crucial exhibits which confirmed the price to avoid the price based on a valuation report done by a Tanzanian officer."

This is the first case in the Tanzania's Judiciary since independence that opened a new chapter with former Head of State being called to the witness box. Ex-President Benjamin Mkapa, who inaugurated the embassy building in 2003, testified for Mahalu in the matter.

In brief, he told the court that his government sanctioned the use of two contracts to purchase the building for the best interest of the nation. He described the ambassador as a person of impeccable character, sincere, honest, obedient and hard working.

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