THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam has directed the prosecution and defence to observe the new plea bargaining rules published by the Chief Justice, Prof Ibrahim Juma, for better carrying out negotiations in resolving different criminal trials.
Senior Resident Magistrate in Charge Godfrey Isaya gave such directives on Tuesday when considering applications for extension of time to conclude negotiations initiated to amicably settle two trials involving 32.6bn/- payments.
The first case involves 1.6bn/- trial of senior officials with BEVICO Limited, a company engaged in the business of importing and selling alcoholic beverages from abroad, while the second one is for 31bn/- economic and tax evasion case against five accused persons.
In both cases, the defence applied Rule 3 of the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining) Rules, 2021 and informed the court over some accused persons expressing intention to enter into plea bargaining agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to end the trials summarily.
Having been satisfied that the accused persons wished to enter into the agreements voluntarily, the court invoked Rule 5 of the Rules to set 30 days as the prescribed time within which the parties are to conclude the intended negotiations.
The magistrate also directed the prosecution to comply with Rule 6 of the Rules to disclose to accused persons all relevant information, documents or other matters obtained during investigation for them to make an informed decision regarding the agreement.
However, when the two cases came for mention on Tuesday, defense counsel for both parties applied for extension of time as no agreement has not been reached yet, though the negotiations were progressing well.
The magistrate informed the parties that the available plea bargaining rules does not provide any provision entertaining any application for extension of time.
However, for ends of justice, he cautiously gave the parties in both cases another 14 days to conclude the negotiations. Both cases were adjourned to April 19, 2021 for mention pending the finalization of the negotiations in question.
In the 1.6bn/- case, the accused are two French nationals, Thierry Lefeuvre and Melanie Phillippe, who are Chief Executive Officer and Human Resources Manager with BEVICO Limited and two Tanzanians, Joseph Rwegasira and Ntemi Massanja, who are Finance Manager and lawyer with the company.
They are facing a total of 46 counts of leading organized 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 organized 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 1,658,370,376/29.
In the 31bn/- trial, the accused persons are prominent businessman Lucas Mallya, a Director with Jaluma General Supplies Limited, businessman, Geofrey Urio and Happy Mwamugunda, a businesswoman, as well as Nelson Kahangwa and Tunsubilege Mateni, both accountants.
They are charged with leading organized crime, forgery, being in possession of stamps printed without authority, occasioning loss to a specified authority, importation of goods without being registered, distribution of excisable goods without fixing stamps and money laundering.
On diverse dates between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2019 in Dar es Salaam, by reasons of his willful acts of making counterfeit stamps, Mallya allegedly caused the government to suffer pecuniary loss of 15,241,075,169/- and within the same period fraudulently evaded payment of the sum as tax to TRA.
Between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019, with intent to evade tax, Mwamugunda, the Director with Happy Imports Associates, allegedly imported 413 cartons of the said unregistered excisable goods, thereby evading payment of 9,584,401,393/- as excise duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) payable to TRA.
It is alleged that between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018 in Dar es Salaam, being the Director of GMU Group Company Limited, with intent to evade tax, Urio submitted false tax returns to TRA, thereby evading tax of 4,265,882,773/-. Mateni as a registered accountant allegedly aided and abetted Urio to prepare parallel financial statement of his company. He was also charged with money laundering for allegedly aiding and abetting Urio to acquire the 4,265,882,773/-.