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Court issues 30-day ultimatum to conclude BEVCO case

THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court has given the prosecution and defence sides 30 days to conclude the plea bargaining agreement into 1.658bn/- trial of senior officials with BEVCO Limited, a company engaged in the business of importing and selling alcoholic beverages from abroad.

Senior Resident Magistrate in Charge, Godfrey Isaya gave such orders in terms of Rule 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining) Rules, 2021 published recently by the Chief Justice, Prof Ibrahim Juma, after considering an application presented by Advocate Abbriaty Kivea.

He also directed the prosecution to comply, within 14 days during the negotiations period, with Rule 6 of the Rules, which require them to disclose to accused all relevant information, documents or other matters obtained during investigation for them to make an informed decision regarding the agreement.

Before issuing such orders, the magistrate made an inquiry from the accused persons to satisfy the court in terms of Rule 5 (2) of the Rules, whether they decided to enter into the plea bargaining agreement voluntarily.

Earlier, the defence counsel informed the court that her clients, against two French nationals, Thierry Lefeuvre and Melanie Phillippe and two Tanzanians Joseph Rwegasira and Ntemi Massanja, wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), seeking to end the trial through plea bargaining agreement.

Having notified the court in their intention in terms of Rule 3 of the Rules, Advocate Kivea, therefore, invited the magistrate to invoke the provision of Rule 5 of the Plea Bargaining Rules to give directions and prescribe time within which the parties could negotiate and conclude the agreement.

The case was adjourned to March 17, 2021 for mention, pending the plea bargaining agreements. Records show that Lefeuvre and Phillippe are Chief Executive Officer and Human Resources Manager with BEVCO Limited, while Samson and Massanja are respective Finance Manager and lawyer with the company.

They are facing a total of 46 counts of leading organised crime, failure to pay tax, tax evasion, forgery of various documents, uttering false documents, money laundering and occasioning loss to a specified authority.

It is alleged that on diverse dates between September 1, 2017 and September 30, 2020 at various places within the commercial city of Dar es Salaam, jointly and together, all accused persons intentionally organised a criminal racket.

The court heard that between October 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019 in the city, by their willful acts, jointly and together, all accused persons caused the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to suffer a pecuniary loss of 1,658bn/-

On money laundering, Philippe and Massanja are charged that between October 1, 2017 and June 31, 2020 facilitated Samson and Lefeuvre to obtain the money, while knowing the same was proceeds of predicate offences of tax evasion, forgery and participation in organised criminal group and racketing.

Within the same period, Samson and Lefeuvre allegedly engaged themselves in transactions that involved 1,658,370,376/29, while they knew that the money is proceeds of predicate offences to money laundering of tax evasion, forgery and participation in organised criminal group and racketing.

The prosecution told the court that between October 1, 2017 and June 31, 2020 in the city, being Manager and Chief Executive Officer with BEVCO Limited, respectively, Samson and Lefeuvre failed to pay the said amount as Value Added Tax (VAT) payable to TRA.

It is alleged that between January 22 and July 19, 2019 within the city, being Finance Manager of BEVCO Limited, failed to pay a total of 187,263,009/48 being VAT, while between January 26, 2018 and May 21, 2020, Lefeuvre failed to pay a total of 593,279,429/61 as VAT payable to the Authority.

Between January 1 and April 1, 2020 at BEVCO Limited offices in Dar es Salaam, Samson forged several documents with different purposes, including Notice of Call of Shares, a reply letter, extraordinary members’ resolution, while Lefeuvre is alleged to have forged Companies Form 210b.

The two accused persons are also alleged to have jointly forged other documents for different purposes, including the form in question, return of allotment of shares Form 55a and application for change of BEVCO Company Limited particulars.

On January 1, 2020 at BEVCO Limited offices within the city, knowingly and fraudulently, Samson uttered to the Registrar of Companies the false documents.

President Samia Suluhu ...

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Author: FAUSTINE KAPAMA

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