Journalist Kabendera set free after seven months in prison

25Feb 2020
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Journalist Kabendera set free after seven months in prison

​​​​​​​Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera has been set free after spending seven months in prison.

Kabendera was released after pleading guilty to money laundering for which he was fined by the Kisutu Resident's Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

His release follows ‘plea bargain agreement’ he entered with the Director of Public Prosecutions in which a charge relating to involvement in organised crime was dropped.

The journalist was fined  172 million/- ($74,000) for tax evasion, which he agreed to pay in six months, and  100 million/-  ($43,000) for money laundering.

Senior Resident Magistrate Janeth Mtega also ordered him to pay  250,000/- ($108) for his release.

The sentence was read yesterday by Principal Resident Magistrate Janeth Mtega.

 Earlier, the prosecution withdrew the charge of leading a criminal gang.  

Before the sentence was read, State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi alleged in court that the accused was a habitual offender but has no past records hence asked the court to mete out punishment according to the terms agreed in the plea bargain arrangement.

On his part Defense Attorney Jebra Kambole claimed that his pleading to the charges has reduced the time in court for the conduct of the trial, as he has a family and other dependants and that he has been in custody for over six months.

He also claimed his client’s health was not good and prayed in the first count to be given a 250,000/- fine according to tax laws and for the second count he is to be given a fine according to the provisions of the laws.

Earlier, reading the ‘plea bargain’ agreement reached with the DPP Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon claimed that they have entered into plea bargain with the accused after he pleaded guilty to the money laundering charges and tax evasion hence the DPP withdrew the charge .  

After reading the agreement magistrate Mtega took the oath of the accused and asked him whether he signed the agreement from his own will and responded in the affirmative.

According to the  State Attorney Nchimbi   between January 1 2010 and July 29 2019 the accused involved himself  with a criminal gang by entering into illegal contracts with other people outside the country including other prominent people not in court.

He claimed the accused agreed to commit offences including forgery; tax evasion and money laundering that contribute to the plummeting of the country’s economy.

He claimed that in March 2010 with his company registered as Voxy Media Centre (T) Ltd b y BRELA and that on January 11, 2016 the accused and his spouse Loy Kabendera aka Loy Nganga registered a company known as Sitrep Company Limited and in that registration they forged various documents to show its premises were at House No 13 Block 213 in Mbweni Mpiji, Kinondoni District which is the house they live in.

He claimed that the accused in his criminal activities issued untruthful statements to government officials aimed to cheat it in order to obtain money through criminal means.

Nchimbi also claimed that on April 2 2016 the accused and his spouse opened two bank account with CRDB Bank, one of which was for foreign currency, as well the accused own bank account.

He said on January 1, 2015 the accused received USD 230,358.83 from his co-accused through his account, the money that came from various people including K2 Intelligence Ltd, Palladium (Tanzania) Ltd, Sitrep Co. Ltd, Eurasia Group Ltd, International Crisis Rou and from other foreign based institutions.

Nchimbi further claimed that on January 1 2015 and August 29 2019 the accused and hius spouse Loy as directors of Sitrep Co Ltd received USD 432,000,541 and Pound Sterling 119,000,130 and during the whole period they never paid any tax to Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

However Nchimbi claimed that the accused police investigators that he never received any money without following proper procedures from illegal sources.

Nchimbi also claimed the accused refused to reveal any bank statements involving his firm – Sitrep Co Ltd.

Reading the statement on fresh charges Attorney Wankyo Simon claimed that on diverse dates between January 1 2015 and august 29 2019 Kabendera evaded paying tax totaling 173,247,047/02 to TRA.

In the second count Kabendera is claimed to have laundered 173,247047/02 while knowing well that the money is a product of tax evasion.