10 September 2017

Tanzania: Diamonds Deal Turns Sour

Photo: Daily News
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Philip Mpango, centre, gets clarification on diamonds impounded at the Julius Nyerere International Airport on August 31. Looking on are: Prof Abdulkarim Mruma, 2nd right, Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General Mr Charles Kichere, partly obscured - 3rd right, Deputy Director General of the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau Brigadier General John Mbungo, 4th right, and the Director of Public Prosecutions Biswalo Mganga (immediate right to the Minister).

...Govt orders arrest of suspects, confiscation of property

THE government has ordered police, Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and other law enforcement agents to investigate impounded diamond suspects' property to establish if they were legitimately acquired before confiscating them to compensate for the loss.

Moreover, the law enforcement agents must also arrest for questioning all suspects involved in the undervaluing of diamond impounded at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA), last week.

The order was issued yesterday at JNIA, by the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Phillip Mpango, saying all former and current officers who have all along been involved in the monitoring and sanctioning of diamond business to be arrested for questioning, including establishing the legality of their property acquired.

The Minister called upon the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to come up with a special arrangement to start establishing mineral reserve, as it is done in other parts of the world instead of dealing with cash reserve only.

Flanked by Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Commissioner General Charles Kicheere, PCCB Deputy Director General, Brigadier General John Mbungo, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Biswalo Mganga, Prof Abdulkarim Mruma and other government officials, Dr Mpango ordered for confiscation of the 14.3kilogrammes of diamond impounded at the airport.

The Minister gave the orders yesterday after police and other law enforcement agents last week impounded the diamond consignment weighing 14.3 kilogrammes.

Thorough analysis led by Prof Mruma, a geologist by profession, later established that the owner of the diamond in collaboration with other government officers under declared its value, pegging it at $14.7 million, while the actual value of the gemstone was 29.5 million US dollars, a difference of 14.7 million US dollars.

The sickening thievery of the gemstones prompted Dr Mpango to ask for investigating members forming the board of Williamson Diamond to establish if they indeed had merits to continue holding such positions, including their conduct.

The list of orders issued by the Minister also included the purchase of modern weighing equipment that will help in the sorting of gemstones in terms of weight to facilitate proper valuing.

Though the weighing and sorting of the diamond is done at the mining site, Prof Mruma told the Minister that the gemstones are again mixed in Antwerp City, Belgium for fresh weighing and sorting.

Antwerp is a Flemish Diamond City in Belgium where an international marketing for the diamond from Tanzanian is done. "From today onwards, I want the weighing and sorting of the gemstones to be done in the mining site in the presence of patriotic Tanzanians with high level of expertise in the field.

The weighing must again be done here at the airport before taking it abroad," he insisted. The Minister stressed on the need to accompany the gemstones to the international markets to establish the actual value that they fetch during marketing, a measure that will help the government get its dues in terms of taxes.

The Commissioner of Minerals who also attended the session at the airport was ordered to send some few Tanzanians outside the country for further studies on the management and trade of gemstones.

He said as a nation, there is need to have special diamond valuers at the mining site and the airport, a cadre of people that can be trained, if possible outside the country. "Currently, we need patriotic diamond valuers at the mining site who are properly vetted to perform these functions," he said.

He added, "President John Magufuli is daily having sleepless nights thinking how he can raise money to help his fellow poor Tanzanians, yet some of our colleagues are facilitating thievery of this magnitude. This is not acceptable at all," Dr Mpango, who appeared furious, said.

Both Brigadier General Mbungo DPP Mganga vowed to bring all those involved to justice. "We have started making arrests of suspects for questioning and the job is still going on.

No stone will be left unturned until all suspects are brought to justice," Brigadier General Mbungo said. The fresh list of orders from the Finance Minister comes barely two days after President Magufuli received two reports detailing dubious deals involving diamond and Tanzanite from the two parliamentary select committees.

It was revealed yesterday that Williamson Diamond Mine can produce at least 230,000 carat of diamond every year worth approximately 46 million US dollars, equivalent to 101.2 bn/-.

The mine, according to records, started production in 1944.

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