Yesterday Harbinder Singh Sethi and James Buchard Rugemarila were charged with obtaining $22 million and 309 billion Tanzania shillings from the Bank of Tanzania in what’s been dubbed the Tegeta Escrow case.
— Maria Sarungi Tsehai (@MariaSTsehai) June 19, 2017
Perhaps the best summary of the Tegeta Escrow case comes from Africa Confidential (Vol 55 – N° 19) dated 26 September 2014 –
- Heads may be about to roll after revelations about the contested transfer of 200 billion Tanzania shillings (US$124 million) from an escrow account in the central bank, the Bank of Tanzania, to Harbinder Singh Sethi’s Pan Africa Power Solutions Tanzania Limited (PAP, AC Vol 55 No 13). The complex details of how Sethi acquired Independent Power Tanzania Ltd. (IPTL) and then raided the BoT account have now been pieced together by two opposition members of parliament, Zitto Kabwe and David Zacharia Kafulila, with the help of The Citizen and Mwananchi newspapers.
- If Sethi’s critics are proved right, this is the country’s biggest corruption scandal to date. Based in South Africa, Sethi is a Tanzanian-born businessman with a reputation for dubious past dealings in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and the United States. Sethi claims to have bought 70% of IPTL’s shares from Malaysia’s Mechmar Corporation, now in receivership. Yet Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong (SCB-HK) claims to have purchased IPTL’s debt for $76 mn. in August 2005 and says Mechmar was already in liquidation when Sethi claimed to have acquired the shares.
- The Tanzanian behind IPTL, former BoT employee and self-styled international consultant James Rugemalira, is also under investigation over the $75 mn. that he was paid by Sethi for his company’s 30% share in IPTL.
- Both Sethi and Rugemalira have lived up to Kabwe’s description as ‘aggressive litigators’. Their strategy has been to steer the acquisition of IPTL away from non-Tanzanian jurisdictions (Malaysia and Britain), from other interested parties (SCB-HK) and lawyers, receivers and liquidators in Malaysia and Hong-Kong. In this way, SCB-HK’s property rights in IPTL have been summarily dismissed and attempts by SCB-HK’s lawyers to negotiate a compromise with Tanesco have all been blocked. Furthermore, the findings of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes over IPTL’s overcharging Tanesco for power supplied and the proposal for a solution involving SCB-HK claims have been ignored. Tanzanian courts have been complicit in rubber-stamping IPTL’s transfer to Sethi’s PAP. None of this helps improve the country’s image abroad.
- The unfolding details about the Tegeta Escrow case resulted in the removal of four ministers back in 2014. On Saturday, the energy minister, Sospeter Muhongo, resigned over his alleged role in the affair last year that saw $180m (£116m) taken from the country’s central bank. The move follows the removal from office of the attorney general, Frederick Werema, the energy secretary, Eliakim Maswi, and the housing minister, Anna Tibaijuka, who was sacked over the transfer of $1m to her private bank account Chairs of three parliamentary committees have also resigned following the scandal: Victor Mwambalaswa, energy and minerals committee; Andrew Chenge, parliamentary budget committee; and William Ngeleja, legal affairs and governance committee.
- Back in December 2014, Stanbic Bank Tanzania released a short statement on the-then parliamentary report on Tegeta Escrow and their role.