PCCB rings tanzanite dealers, advocates in smuggling query

26Sep 2020
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
PCCB rings tanzanite dealers, advocates in smuggling query

Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) officers have reported holding seven Arusha-based businesspersons and miners, among them two major mineral dealers, for allegedly bribing government officials in order to continue with their tanzanite smuggling rackets.

PCCB Director General Brigadier General John Mbungo.

The suspects, who are currently under investigations, include Joel Saitoti Mollel, the manager of Gem and Rock Ventures Ltd; Daudi Saimale Lairumbe of the Northern Law Chambers (said to be the lawyer representing Gem and Rock Ltd), and Caren Saitoti Mollel, the wife of Joel – and similarly a businessperson.

Others on the PCCB’s gemstone racketeering list include Rakesh Kumar Gokhroo, the director of Colour Clarity Co.of Arusha; George Paul Kivuyo Lekoo, a miner and gemstone dealer in the city; Naiman Emmanuel Mollel, a quarry operator in Mirerani; and Ezekiel Amon Laizer, a miner and gemstone dealer.

PCCB Director General Brigadier General John Mbungo said in a statement that properties owned by the seven suspects, including houses, land, cash, mineral consignments and cars, are valued at 7.2bn/- in total and have also been sequestrated as part of investigations.

“PCCB is working with the Director of Criminal Investigations in its inquiries, and they (the suspects) will soon be taken to court. Should they be found guilty, then all their properties will be confiscated in addition to jail terms,” he said in the statement.

He said that the suspects, in addition to dealing with illegal shipments of gemstones, operated a network through which they declared false values of tanzanite being exported in international markets in order to dodge taxes.

Reports by international mineral trading circles show that tanzanite worth 635bn/- used to be smuggled out of Tanzania every year through cross-border “bush channels” before being auctioned in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and subsequently in a number of Indian cities.

A wall was erected in 2017 around Mirerani quarries on orders from President John Magufuli to curb mineral smuggling, which drove down the racket though it is still taking place intermittently.

Before the construction of the Mirerani wall, Nairobi gemstone centres used to sell tanzanite valued at US$100 million every year as India documented US$300 million worth of tanzanite imports and Tanzania (the only place in the world whether tanzanite is found) registered a paltry $38 million worth of tanzanite exports annually, according to reports.

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