THE MREMA PHENOMENON

The main feature in Bulletin No 39 concerned what was described as the ‘Mrema Phenomenon’ and explained the energetic activities of the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Augustine Mrema, in fighting corruption and crime. There has been no let up in his fight during the last four months.

He has:
– launched a thorough investigation of 16 Customs and Sales Tax officers allegedly involved in a tax fraud syndicate amounting to TShs 215.1 million; they were alleged to have colluded with a Zambia-based company to defraud the country of revenue on 262 vehicles purported to be in transit but actually sold in Tanzania;
– already spent TShs 13.8 million on rewards (at the rate of 10% of the funds recovered) to persons providing information about crimes that have been committed, consequently saving over TShs 1 billion of government funds; amongst criminals exposed had been 381 using ‘police money’ and 2,804 ‘gongo’ distillers; some 494 elephant tusks had been intercepted;
– learnt to his surprise that one person had been selling roasted human meat to hard-working gem miners some of whom believed that by eating this meat they would be able to find more gems;
– given the management of the Tanzania Fisheries Corporation (TAFICO) one month to explain a TShs 20.1 million loss and certain unaccounted imprests;
– instructed that any vehicle impounded in connection with illegal gold deals would be confiscated by the government;
– given the Soviet airline Aeroflot two weeks to submit sales records for the last five years to help probe allegations that it might have drawn US$1.0 million from the country’s foreign exchange reserves through selling tickets illegally in local currency;
– directed Printpak Tanzania Limited and the Tanzania Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (TPTC) to explain a suspected multi-million shilling scandal associated with a printing order;
– demanded the immediate payment by seven export companies of US$ 1.7 million for products exported during the last three years;

The real bombshell, however, came on June 8th 1991 when six people were rounded up at Dar es Salaam airport carrying TShs 136,624,009 in cash and travellers cheques and 11 ounces of gold worth TShs 36 million. Mr Mrema told newsmen that the businessmen who had been carrying the foreign exchange to Dubai had been allowed to go free because they were mere agents of ‘bigshots’ who were masterminding the racket. Some of the funds were sealed in African Pride tea packets. On July 5th it was reported that the entire haul (except the gold) had been returned to its owners in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar Chief Minister Dr Omar Ali Juma told cheering businessmen at a meeting in early July that he wished to thank the Union Government for returning the money and added that “the People on both sides of the United Republic demand that the ‘big shots’ be named. Many others have been expressing similar views. ‘Africa Events’ later reported that a UN Volunteer had had his US$ 2,000 worth of travellers cheques nabbed and was awaiting prosecution and an FAO expert had had to leave the country after a US$ 1,000 transaction. Minister Mrema warned foreigners working in Tanzania ‘not to involve themselves in illegal transactions’ – Daily News.

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