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Why Swiss billions are beyond cheap politics, cheap publicity

2nd December 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

Two weeks ago, this newspaper published a front-page lead story headlined, “Swiss reacts” in which the Switzerland authority clearly told the Tanzanian government what role it should play in order to nab those accused of hiding billions in offshore bank accounts.

Indeed, the authorities in Switzerland have given their Tanzanian counterparts tough conditions to implement before they (Swiss) could cooperate in tracing the stolen billions allegedly being kept in offshore banks.

According to documents availed to The Guardian on Sunday, one of the conditions is that the Tanzania authorities should furnish Switzerland with names of those who stashed the alleged stolen billions into the country’s banks.

Secondly, Tanzanian authorities should also have concrete proof that the billions were fraudulently or corruptly obtained. This includes, among other things, details about who bribed who, how the bribes were transacted and, above all, the evidence to show that such transactions originated from the alleged oil companies.

After the publication of this story, the man who tabled a private motion in Parliament about the Swiss hidden billions, Kigoma North Legislator, Zitto Zuberi Kabwe, emerged urging the government to stop playing politics after it was ordered to investigate the matter and report back to the Legislative Assembly in April, 2013.

He was reacting to the published story as well as the comments from Minister George Mkuchika who issued some cheap comments in Mwanza when he was asked by journalists to give his side of the story about the Swiss reactions on the allegedly hidden billions.

Both the minister and Kabwe are apparently playing cheap politics; they do not add value to the investigation on the hidden billions allegedly stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. Neither Zitto nor Mkuchika hold any credible stand about the billions.

If Minister Mkuchika was really serious he would have stated clearly what measures are being taken by the government to recover the stolen billions which would, among other things, include hiring internationally recognized investigators to help our Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to trace those monies.

Likewise, Kabwe is playing cheap politics; and we see little sense in what he is saying. He first promised to name the individuals who stashed the so-called billions into their alleged Swiss accounts. The nation waited with bated breath; we all hoped against hope that one of our young and popular opposition legislator would finally name those who had banked the stolen billions in Switzerland.

Even with all the parliamentary immunity he enjoys, Zitto failed to name and shame the owners of the alleged stolen or corruptly obtained billions. Instead, he now tells the public that naming the suspects would have given them an opportunity to block any possible investigation against them.

This is a very lame excuse indeed because as a lawmaker, a patriot and respected citizen, Kabwe would have stunned the authority by naming all the suspects during his private motion. The next stage would have been to hold the government accountable because, by then, it would have had all the names on which to act. In many ways, Kabwe would have cornered the government, leaving it with precious little option except take action.

What Kabwe doesn’t know is that even without naming the suspects in public, they can still cover “their backs” before the April, 2013 deadline. These are individuals who are well connected and have the best offshore lawyers to cover their backsides and at any cost.

For those who know how the offshore empires operate, traceability is the first thing that is taken care of before anything else; that’s how and why their sham companies, fake directors or fake bank account holders survive.

You could have all the names of Tanzanians allegedly holding the so-called stolen billions abroad, but these are, in fact, just names on paper because in reality such individuals do not even exist.

That’s why privileged citizens like Kabwe should come out, name and shame the suspects – the rest is for the government to nail down those so named. This is not a matter of Chadema or the ruling party; it’s a matter of national interest -- which goes beyond cheap party politics.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY