THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam sentenced to six years in jail four officials of the Development Entrepreneurship for Community Initiative (DECI) for operating a pyramid scheme in the country illegally.
Resident Magistrate Stuart Sanga ordered Jackson Sifael Mtares, Dominick Kigendi, Timotheo Saigaran ole Loitginye and Samwel Sifael Mtares, who were all directors of DECI, to serve the sentence if they fail to pay a fine of 21m/- each.
However, according to the advocate for the convicts, Hudson Ndusyepo, two of his clients, Jackson Sifael Mtares and Timotheo Saigaran ole Loitginye, escaped the jail term after managing to pay the required fine. The other two were later taken to prison to start serving their sentences.
The magistrate convicted the four of two counts of operating the scheme by receiving deposits and providing returns to people without a licence after being satisfied by evidence produced by 16 prosecution witnesses, led by Senior State Attorney Prosper Mwangamila.
"On the basis and strength of evidence produced by prosecution witnesses, this court is convinced that the accused were involved in operating and managing the pyramid scheme," said the magistrate, whose judgment was read on his behalf by Senior Resident Magistrate Aloyce Katemana.
The magistrate added, "The prosecution has sufficiently proved the count(s) beyond reasonable doubts against them. The accused persons are hereby found guilty as charged." He sentenced each of them to serve three years in jail in default of paying fine of 3m/- on first count.
In the first count, the accused persons were charged with receiving deposits and providing returns to people. For the second count involving operating the pyramid scheme without licence, each convict was ordered to remain behind bars for three years upon failure to pay 18m/- fine.
The four convicts were charged alongside Arbogast Francis Kipilimba, whom the court found innocent after the prosecution failed to prove the charges against him. "There is no evidence establishing (his) involvement. He is hereby acquitted immediately," the magistrate declared.
In his judgment, Magistrate Sanga directed the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to confiscate all bank accounts at various banks opened for DECI and seize all other assets owned by the company. According to the magistrate, the BoT should find ways of refunding members of DECI who had "sown seeds" upon verification of required receipts.
At the time the government intervened into the matter, DECI had more than 400,000 members who owed the company over 92bn/-. During mitigation, the prosecution had requested the court to severely punish the convicts not only to serve as a lesson to the offenders but also to whoever would be tempted to engage in such business in future.
He also appealed to the court to confiscate all DECI assets and hand them over to the government, alleging that none of the members was required to benefit because during operation of the pyramid scheme, both operators and members were committing offences.
Advocate Ndusyepo, for the convicts, however, requested the court to provide lenient sentences to his client, considering that it was first for them to be found guilty in a criminal offence and that they had engaged in the business for the purpose of assisting people to eradicate poverty.
During the trial, the prosecution had alleged that between 2007 and March 2009, at the headquarters of DECI at Mabibo area in the city, the convicts operated and managed the pyramid scheme in different places in the country.
The prosecution had charged that the convicts promised members of the public that they would "harvest" more money upon sowing seeds. The court was also told that within such period, the convicts received from public members such deposits without a licence.