THE 31 containers laden with logs, impounded by the government in November 2015 from Zambia, were illegally shipped to Dar es Salaam on their way to China, a comprehensive investigative report that the 'Sunday News' has seen states.
According to the details, both Zambia and Tanzania governments were deeply involved in an investigation surrounding the shipment of the containers from Zambia via Tunduma border, before it was concluded that the consignment had no proper documents to back up their shipment.
Having impounded the containers, the government notified the Zambian government, prompting the then Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism, Dr Adelhelm Meru, together with the Zambian Deputy High Commissioner to Tanzania, Ms Elizabeth Phiri, to visit NASACO plot in Dar es Salaam, where the containers were stored on November 27, 2015.
Having Dr Meru and Ms Phiri inspected the documents used to transport the containers at NASACO premises, it was learnt that the documents originated at Tunduma border, meaning that there were no papers to prove that the logs originated from Zambia.
However, at NASACO premises other 28 containers containing logs that were also transported from Zambia were impounded bringing the total number to 59. The anomaly noted by the two leaders forced them to order the Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) to conduct thorough investigation to establish the documents used to haul the containers from Zambia to Dar es Salaam, while placing the consignments in the custody of TFS until owners adduced clear evidence to prove the legality of their shipment to Tanzania via Tunduma border.
In December 2, 2015, TFS, through the PS, issued its investigation report on the procedures used to transport the containers in which it was revealed that the first 31 containers were illegally shipped to Dar es Salaam after violating Zambia's forest laws.
According to Zambia's forest laws and regulations, it is illegal for any person or entity to harvest and transport logs out of the country without a permit from the responsible minister. The report also stated clearly that the shipment of containers of logs violated Tanzania's Forest Act, 2002 and its regulations of 2004 as they lacked documents namely; Phytosanitary certificate from Zambia, Certificate of origin from Zambia, Export permit and transit pass from Zambia and Tanzania inspection permit.
Furthermore, despite their failure to adduce supporting documents listed above through TFS and TRA offices at Tunduma border, clearing and forwarding agents hired to clear the shipment of logs from Zambia to Dar es Salaam, testified that the consignments originated from Zambia.
At their disposal were only the invoices that facilitated the passage of the cargo at Tunduma border. Investigations conducted established that harvesting of logs in Zambia was being undertaken within the forest located at Isoka area, about 50 kilometres from Nakonde border point.
Details from the report stated that the second batch of 28 containers that was stored at NASACO premises also had no legal documents to support their entry to Tanzania from Zambia. As per the government procedures, information about all containers with logs that enter Tanzania from Zambia must always be kept at TRA office.
Details at TRA showed that from January to November 2015, a total of 424 containers of logs entered Tanzania via Tunduma border of which 355, equivalent to 83.7 per cent, came from Zambia and shipped to China.
According to the investigation report, each container of logs had its supporting legal documents that showed the names of clearing and forwarding companies, the transporter, the owner, the country of origin of the logs and the destination.
During investigation, it was found that all clearing and forwarding companies that were involved in clearing the impounded containers were based in Dar es Salaam, namely, Salsabil Investment Limited, Best Oceanair (T) Limited, Dar es Salaam Global Access, Planatlantic Geofreight Limited and Horizon Freight Forwarders.
Though prior investigations and inspections conducted on the impounded containers established beyond reasonable doubt that the consignment of logs entered Tanzania via Tunduma border illegally, the public prosecutor also called for more thorough investigations before arraigning owners to court.
In implementing the directives of the public prosecutor, the clearing and forwarding agents were ordered to submit all the documents related to forest products used to transport the containers to a task force of four officials for scrutiny, within 30 days but until the deadline reached, only four agents managed to do so.
The clearing and forwarding companies that submitted the documents to the task force are Dar Global Access Limited, Panatlantic Geofreight Limited, Pedro Gargo (T) Limited and Salsabil Investment. The documents submitted were the Phytosanitary certificate from Zambia, Certificate of origin from Zambia, Export permit and transit pass from Zambia and Tanzania's inspection permit.
However, after thorough scrutiny of the documents submitted by the four agents to the task force, it was established that they were full of shortcomings, warranting to be termed as illegal. Other four agents namely; Best Ocean Air Co. Limited, Alvay and Champion failed to submit documents related to forest products and instead, they adduced TRA documents that related to taxes only.
In trying to handle the matter professionally, the report says, the four-man task force advised that a criminal investigation be conducted against all individuals involved in the matter in preparation for file case in court.
From June 7-9, last year, a delegation from Zambia led by their Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection visited Tanzania, where they held talks with Tanzania counterparts led by the PS in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism during which, among other things, talks on the impounded containers of logs were also held.
During the meeting, the Zambian delegation scrutinised the documents that were submitted by the clearing and forwarding agents to support the harvesting and transportation of 59 containers of logs to Dar es Salaam, after which it was proven that the documents were not issued by the Zambia's Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.
The unfolding events forced the Chief Executive Officer of Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) on April 6, last year, to write the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), asking him to co-ordinate the criminal investigation to pave the way for filing charges in court against individuals linked with the containers.
It is documented that on July 13, last year, the DPP informed the Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI), including giving him the terms of reference on how to conduct investigation and areas of concentration in the investigation for the major purpose of collecting water tight evidence to be used upon filing the case in court.
On September 15, last year, a team of criminal investigators from DCI's office got down to business, including interrogating some TFS and NASACO officers with full knowledge on how the containers were seized and the violation of laws noted.
Details provide that the team of criminal investigators from the DCI's office completed its investigation work on Tanzania side and that it was planning to start investigation work on the Zambia side.
However, it is reported that three owners of the impounded containers of logs have filed cases at the High Court-Dar es Salaam Zone against the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, TFS and Attorney General (AG). The owners are Agro Tech (Z) Limited, Norma Resources (Z) Limited and Sino Africa Limited.