Tanzania: Court Sets Free Rugemalira in 350bn/ - Economic Trial

THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam yesterday set free prominent businessman James Rugemalira, in the 350bn/- economic trial he was facing.

Principal Resident Magistrate Huruma Shaidi discharged the businessman after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided to enter nolle prosequi certificate under section 91 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) to discontinue the prosecution of the charges against him.

State Attorney Grace Mwanga presented the certificate in question in court, stating that the DPP would not prosecute the businessman on the charges of conspiracy, leading organised crime, obtaining money by false pretences, occasioning loss to a specified authority and money laundering.

Following the DPP's decision, the magistrate ordered the businessman to leave the court premises as freeman, leaving behind his co-accused, Advocate Joseph Makandege, whose case will be mentioned on September 23, 2021, as investigations are still incomplete.

He left the court premises with his close relatives and went straight to Makongo Juu Roman Catholic Church - Bikira Maria Mama wa Rozari (Virgin Mary Mother of the Rosary), for thanksgiving prayers to God, for the new dramatic turn of events involving the case in question. The businessman remained in remand for over four years.

Nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase, which directly translates to 'not to wish to prosecute'. Nolle prosequi is a legal notice or entry of record that the prosecutor has decided to abandon the prosecution. It is a declaration made by a prosecutor in a criminal case declining to further pursue the case against the accused.

Such a declaration may be made because the charges cannot be proved because vital witnesses have become unavailable or uncooperative, or the evidence is too weak to carry the burden of proof, thus, the prosecutor becomes doubtful whether the accused is guilty.

Rugemalira was arraigned alongside the Executive Chairman of the Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL), Harbinder Sethi, to face the criminal charges on June 19, 2017. After remaining in remand for some years, the prosecution amended the charge sheet by adding Advocate Makandege into trial.

Between October 18, 2011 and March 19, 2014, at various places in Dar es Salaam in the United Republic of Tanzania and various places in Republic of Kenya, South Africa and the Republic of India, jointly and together, they allegedly conspired to commit an offence of obtaining money by false pretences.

Within the same period in the city of Dar es Salaam, the prosecution alleged, being not public officials but in collusion with public officers, all accused persons intentionally and knowingly managed, financed and furthered the objectives of a criminal racket with intent to reap profit or other benefit.

Between November 29, 2013 and January 23, 2014 at Stanbic Bank Limited, Centre Branch in Kinondoni District and at Mkombozi Commercial Bank PLC, St. Joseph Branch in Ilala District, by false pretences, Rugemalira and Sethi allegedly obtained $22,198,544.60 and 309,461,300,158/27.

The court heard further that on November 29, 2013 at Stanbic Bank Limited, Centre Branch in Kinondoni District, by their willful acts, jointly and together, Sethi and Regemalira allegedly caused the government of Tanzania to suffer a pecuniary loss of the said amount.

It was alleged that on diverse days between November 29, 2013 and January 23, 2014 at different places in the city, jointly and together, the accused persons conspired to commit an offence of money laundering by acquiring from the Bank of Tanzania the money.

On November 29, 2013 at Stanbic Bank Limited, Centre Branch in Kinondoni District, Sethi allegedly acquired the 22,198,544.60 US dollars from the BoT, while he knew at the time of acquisition of the money was the proceeds of the said predicate offence.

The prosecution alleged further that between November 29, 2013 and March 14, 2014 at the same bank, Sethi acquired the 309,461,300,158/27 from BoT, while knowing that such money was the proceeds of a predicate offence of participating in an organised criminal group and racketeering.

It was claimed also that on January 23, 2014 at Mkombozi Commercial Bank, St Joseph Branch in Ilala District, Rugemalira acquired 73,573,500,000/- from Sethi, while he knew at the time of acquisition the money was the proceeds of the said predicate offence.

The court was also told that on the same day at the same bank in Ilala District in the city, Rugemalira acquired from Sethi $22m (about 51bn/-), while knowing that the said money was the proceeds of a predicate offence of participating in an organised criminal group and racketeering.

On his part, Makandege was charged with receiving a sum of $ 980,000 (about 2.3bn/) illegally at Stanbic Bank in Kinondoni District and UBL Bank (T) Limited in Ilala District between January and February 2014. He is also accused of laundering the said sum.

In 2020, Sethi and Makandege expressed their wish to enter into agreement with the DPP to end the criminal trial under plea bargaining arrangement. On June 15, 2021, the court set Sethi free after agreeing to pay 26bn/- compensation to the government in the plea bargaining agreement with the DPP.

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