4 December 2018

Tanzania: Arusha Lawyer Eludes Jail in Money Laundering Case

Arusha — Median Mwale may at last be free after over seven years in remand prison, following yesterday's High Court verdict in Arusha.

He was sentenced to pay a fine of Sh200 million for money laundering and related charges in a high profile case that has dragged on since 2011.

He would serve a jail term of five years if he failed to pay the fine. He pleaded guilty to the charges on Thursday, last week.

After Judge Issa Maige of the High Court took one hour to read the judgement in the packed courtroom, many who followed the case were eager to know the fate of the lawyer whose source of wealth has baffled many.

A request by the State Attorney Oswald Tibabyakyomya to have his property confiscated by the government and nationalised were halted because they would have to await formalities.

After the reading of the sentence, Mwale appeared certain to be free as his relatives and friends who had thronged the court appeared ready to raise the money for the fine.

He is a popular figure in some circles in Arusha but equally elusive, especially the sophisticated life he led in years before being charged.

Those who knew him said he led a humble life and was until the 1990s a lawyer with the Arusha municipality, giving legal advice to the city fathers who had to grapple with challenges brought by fast growth.

But things changed for Median after the death of his elder brother who was a prominent advocate in Arusha. A source said he left the government job then.

He joined the late brother's law firm, which was incidentally based in Arusha, and ran it as an advocate. That was in the late 1990s.

"He was a bit of a sophisticated person; nicely dressed and appeared to be in a club of the wealthy," a source intimated to The Citizen.

Another source added: "I have not interacted with him but he was a lawyer who handled high profile cases."

On the social front, he stood tall. At one time he was the chairperson of a famous private school in Arusha.

Elsewhere, he was an active member of the Anglican Church, the Arusha Diocese, and spearheaded fund raising activities for the institution.

But advocate Mwale, as he was commonly known, was increasingly associated with 'big money' in more recent years as the private businesses opened up to the locals.

Before he was taken to court seven years ago,he was reported to own some expensive investments in the affluent suburbs of Arusha such as the upmarket Njiro and Sakina.

Besides the posh houses, he was also associated with the posh cars, some of which have been collecting dust at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) yard in Arusha after they were impounded.

From the faces of his relatives who were at the court yesterday, it was clear he would easily raise the Sh. 200m slapped by the court as a fine and set their man free.

Money laundering is one of the serious economic crimes in the world today and advocate Mwale appears to be among the first people to be charged for the offence.

The verdict of the High Court was a bit tricky and left many answers on the long drawn case which was closely followed by multiple interested parties.

Judge Maige said by pleading 'guilty', the court has been saved time and resources to bring in 59 prosecution witnesses from outside the country and 64 exhibits.

It is likely advocate Mwale would pay the fine and join a Kenyan national Don Bosco Gichana was accused with him.

Gichana, now back in his Kisii county home in Kenya, pleaded 'guilty' and was fined Sh. 300m fine and so escaped a five year jail term.

The two are alleged to have committed the offence between February 2009 and February 2011, knowing it was a serious economic crime which violated the Money Laundering Act.

The two others roped in the same case Boniface Mwimba and Elias Ndejembi who are employees of the CRDB Bank, are still in custody.

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