-Envoy renews pledge to support all efforts by PCCB, AG in this regard
THE Swiss government has confirmed that it is working closely with Tanzanian authorities in pursuing the recovery of stolen public funds stashed away by corrupt officials in offshore bank accounts.
Switzerland has also revealed that it is ready to comply with any formal requests from the Tanzanian government for the speedy release of information that could assist in the prosecution of key suspects behind various corruption allegations.
The Swiss Ambassador to Tanzania, Adrian Schlapfer, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that his country is in ’’close and permanent’’ collaboration with the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to provide legal assistance on corruption.
A probe team led by the AG, Johnson Mwanyika, is currently involved in investigating the foreign aspects of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) external payment arrears (EPA) account embezzlement scandal, following revelations that part of the 133bn/- looted in the process was stashed away in offshore bank accounts.
In the meantime, the PCCB has long been investigating the $42m (approx. 55bn/-) military radar purchase scandal, whereby more than $12m (approx. 15bn/-) is believed to have been paid to senior Tanzanian government officials in 2002 to approve the dubious deal through a Swiss bank account.
Speaking at the launch of the Tanzania Corruption Tracker System in Dar es Salaam, the Swiss ambassador however, insisted that his country can no longer be considered a haven for corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
Stated Schlapfer: ’’Switzerland can wholeheartedly subscribe to this commitment. As a matter of fact - and despite an outdated perception of my country as an impenetrable safe haven for all kinds of ill-gotten fortunes - Switzerland is nowadays among the pioneers in promoting joint international commitments to combat the stashing away of stolen assets, to stop money laundering, and to stop financing international terrorism.’’
He continued: ’’I know of no other country that has gone as far as Switzerland in actually returning assets deposited in its banking system by ruthless greedy statesmen, as illustrated in the case of former Nigerian dictator (Sani) Abacha, when some $400m was returned to the rightfully elected government of Nigeria.’’
The envoy noted that corruption - particularly grand corruption - is a global issue, and there is a need for close coordination between all countries concerned to prevent and erase the vice.
’’My embassy stands ready to furnish any assistance that may be required by Tanzania to comply with formal requirements of Swiss authorities, in order to speedily obtain the information required for prosecution of corruption suspects,’’ he said.
He further noted that at the general budget support annual review last November, development partners had agreed with Tanzanian government officials to jointly tackle corruption.
’’It (corruption) is a worldwide phenomenon requiring joint action. While government has the main responsibility, development partners should be supportive, and also provide timely mutual legal assistance when requested,’’ said the ambassador.
Schlapfer also noted a new commitment at the highest levels of government to confront some of the worst, hitherto untouchable perpetrators of corruption in the country.
He also praised civil society and the media in the fight against corruption, remarking: ’’I have observed a civil society that has progressively grown more vocal, confident, and strong as a watchdog over governance issues, and an astoundingly outspoken and free media doing investigative journalism.’’
’’It is thanks to these external actors that several grand corruption cases have been uncovered, and that people have become aware of their rights to the public sector’s accountability,’’ he added.
- report by ALVAR MWAKYUSA of ThisDay
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