The anti-minerals smuggling campaign has hoted up in Tanzania, but there is a huge cover-up. 270 Kgs of gold worth some Tsh 12bn/- and 2 tons of uranium passed through the Dar es Salaam International Airport using fake export permits 15 months ago, and nobody wants to talk about it! And guess who’s to blame? As always, its the Tanzania Police!
This is a Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) funded Investigation
By Jaston Binala
The plague Tanzania has known for decades of minerals smuggling is currently under Government scrutiny to remove it, but anti-smuggling agencies are keeping silent on two cases involving 270 kilograms of gold and 2 tons of uranium smuggled out of the country through the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, by use of fake export permits.
Press reports have indicated this month that the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA) concedes the minerals smuggling problem is escalating in Tanzania, explaining that minerals worth over Tsh. 500 million were smuggled out of the country in a span of only three months in late last year. The smuggling was on account of Tanzania Police criminal complacency. The police release suspects, TMAA complains. But this report conceals a gigantic smuggling scandal in which only one individual smuggled Tsh. 12 billion/- worth of gold some 15 months ago. TMAA caught the individual but was set free by the police.
The Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals, Stephen Masele, recently warned in Arusha, that the government will maintain ‘zero tolerance’ against those engaging in illegal mineral trading—which includes smuggling. The deputy minister’s words have been coupled with sting operations by various government agencies working together to rout illegal mineral dealers and smugglers, but there is evidence of circumvention by some members of the operations—especially the police and in some instances the courts.
Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA) and other security operatives at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) confiscated Tsh. 240,000,000/- worth of gold on October 1 2013, when they nabbed Frank David Kateti attempting to smuggle out the country some 4.06 Kilograms of pure gold. In another recent incident, a Zairean national whose name has not yet been disclosed was caught on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, attempting to smuggle 1.0 Kg of gold worth about Tsh. 70,000,000/- out of the same airport.
The joint government agency anti-smuggling operations have involved officers from Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA), Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS), Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Tanzania Police force since these operation started in the year 2012, according to Bruno Mteta, Director of Business Support at TMAA.
Outlining TMAA’s over-all achievement since the anti-minerals smuggling campaign started in July 2012, the Agency’s Advisory Board Chairman, Dr. Yamungu Kayandabila said in a statement in early December, that “Since the Agency started inspecting travellers and their luggage at airports in July 2012, a total of 32 incidents of minerals smuggling valued at Tsh. 15.03 billion have been reported.” He said 17 incidents of attempted smuggling of minerals worth Tsh 1.9 billion had been reported between May and November this year alone.
Dr. Kayandabila also said “legal action has been taken against those implicated,” adding that “the minerals in these incidents have been nationalized.” In this statement, however, the Board chairman neglected to mention a major flaw in the operation.
On September 5, 2012, at Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, a person who will not be identified by anybody in Government was caught by a TMAA officer known to this reporter only by one name of Omari, was caught with 270 Kilograms of Gold. The smuggler was using a fake export permit. The gold was valued at USD 8,100,000 at the time, equivalent to Tsh. 12 billion/-. The smuggler was taken to the JNIA police station but was set free according to impeccable sources. He left the airport along with the smuggled gold.
On October 10, 2012 , 2.0 tons of uranium of unknown value was caught at JNIA on account of attempted smuggling. The police held suspects for eight days then let them continue with their journey to Australia where they were sending the uranium. Investigations indicate the Gold was from here in Tanzania, but the Uranium oirginated from Congo DRC.
Efforts to get names of smugglers in both instances or circumstances of their release to alleviate the possibility of corruption and poor governance have failed. The new Director of Criminals Investigations (DCI), Isaya Mngulu told this reporter he had not heard anything about these cases when i talked to him and so he would not have the names. The Commissioner for Minerals, Ally Samaje said he would say something about the cases but he had not said anything when this story was being submitted for publication.
TMAA officials also do not want to talk about these two cases, although Omari, the TMAA officer who caught the suspects confirmed he spotted the culprits–but he does not remember the names. “I handle so many cases each month you can’t expect me to remember every names I come across,” Omari told me. “These names must be somewhere in our files.” But the TMAA Communications Officer, Yisambi Shiwa said he is not able to find the names in the agency’s data base.
The Tsh. 12 billion/- gold and 2 tons uranium smugglers were set free by the JNIA police in a country researchers have proved the police to be the most corrupt in East Africa.
The police forces across the EAC region took the first five positions as the most bribery prone public outfits, with Tanzania’s law enforcers scoring 72.9 per cent in bribery aggregation followed by Kenya (70.7 per cent), Burundi (64 per cent), Uganda (60 per cent) and Rwanda (54 per cent), according to East Africa Bribery Index (EABI) 2013 released in Dar es Salaam recently.
The Tanzania part of the survey, conducted by Transparency International (TI) in collaboration with an NGO called Fordia concluded that the Police Force, the Judiciary and the tax collectors took the overall top positions as the most bribery prone. The police scored 72.9 per cent as most corrupt in the list of Top Ten most corrupt sectors within the country, followed by Judiciary (38.3 per cent), tax services (36.9 per cent), Others (31.3 per cent), Land Services (26.9 per cent).
Reacting to these research findings, the Tanzania police spokesperson, Ms Advera Senso,said although she was not aware of the methodology used in the survey, it was not right to judge a whole institution as there might be some unethical individuals like in other institutions who engage in such misconducts.
Amani Mustafa Mhinda, Executive Director of HakiMadini said another complication in these issues may relate to this fact: that what looks like a case might not be a case at all technically. TMAA and the police may arrest a person for alleged smuggling only to learn he is not a smuggler when the Director of Public Prosecution tried to build a case.
Giving one complication which may affect mineral smuggling cases for instance, Mhinda said the mining law allows dealers to sell minerals in their possession, but the law does not tell them where to sell those minerals. The only assumption used when catching an alleged smuggler is that when minerals are sold outside the country, that the dealer might not return to pay the required taxes.
Building a smuggling case requires the entire system to agree there is a case to prosecute—from the TMAA, the Police, the DPP and the courts. Without this agreement the suspect does not have a case. But Mhinda advised that the police be given training on matters related to minerals.
Corruption and the abuse of power is not a new thing in Tanzania, however, according to record. In 1992, US$36,000 worth of gold was seized at the then Dar es Salaam International Airport (DIA), now JNIA. That case was handled in person by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Augustino Lyatonga Mrema, now Chairman of the opposition political party, Tanzania Labour Party (TLP). He arrested the culprits and announced publicly that the gold’s owners were ‘big shots’ in the government.
No sooner had he finished announcing this than an order had come from above, directing him to release the culprits, unconditionally and with immediate effect. When people asked him who those ‘big shots’ were, Mrema said his boss had the answer and the gold was gone.
The then President Ally Hassan Mwinyi explained that the persons involved in the scandal were not necessarily ministers, but he did not say who they were. It was however established later, that persons in the government were at logger-heads with each other after this arrest. Mrema lost his home affairs ministerial post. He was moved to a post where he would not deal directly with mineral smugglers again as Minister for Labour and Youth Development. Circumstances were later created to force him out of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
Records show Tanzania has well-organized forms of mineral smuggling, involving companies, traders and/or government officials, who undertake such activities with seeming impunity that makes USD 36,000 gold smuggled out in 1992 seem like a joke when compared to 8,100,000 worth of gold taken out in 2012, according to analysts.
A research project conducted by the Open Society Institute of Central European University titled “The Role of Poor Governance in the Tanzania-Al Qaeda Link Controversy …and Policy Options for Tanzania, Enabling it to Escape from Curses in the Mining Industry” found out that Precise data on the amount of minerals being smuggled is difficult to establish in this country, but the Ministry of Energy and Minerals was quoted as saying in the 1990s that gold worth over US$50,000 was being smuggled out on a daily basis from Tanzania, equivalent to about US$18 billion a year.
Charles Carmona, a mining professional from the United States of America specializing in Gemstones, is currently in Tanzania to help transform Arusha city into Africa’s version Jaipur India, where Tanzanite and other gemstones will be value added before they are shipped out to foreign consumers. In an interview in Arusha, Carmona gave an opinion on the persistence of smuggling in Tanzania. “The Smugglers do that because they don’t want to pay taxes. They want to maximize profits,” he .
In a presentation to journalists visiting TMAA offices last month, TMAA’s Planning & Research Development Manager, Julius Moshi, identified problem areas that need immediate attention if the anti-minerals smuggling campaign is to succeed
TMAA would like to have the mandate to prosecute offenders instead of handing them over to the police he said, adding that the agency has inadequate human and financial resources to sustain its activities. But the biggest problem is corruption and poor governance. Hours before this story was submitted for publication, a reliable source said TMAA had now decided the police were too untrustworthy to keep evidence exhibits; the agency can no longer leave the exhibits in police custody.