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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TweetThis! Police Nails Five Web criminals who stole TRA's $77m

On September 21st, Mkinga Mkinga of TheCitizen reported that:

Investigators from the Financial Intelligence Unit, have revealed that inordinate hours taken by Tanzania Revenue Authority personnel to clear tax payments made through electronic transfers, allowed a syndicate to siphon out between $5 and $77 million (Sh6.5 billion and Sh100 billion) remitted by state corporations, after it was paid through the new electronic money transfer system.
...some TRA employees were not well versed with the new system.
Click on the following link to read the rest of this report: Allafrica.com

On September 27th, The Guardian Newspaper wrote:
At least five Tanzanians are part of the syndicate that planned and executed a massive financial fraud that saw the Tanzania Revenue Authority lose an estimated $77million, The Guardian  can reveal today. Earlier reports claimed that the theft involving the siphoning of tax collections paid by the Tanzania Telephone Company Ltd (TTCL) was masterminded by an international syndicate, but The Guardian on Sunday has learnt that some of the top men behind this scam are the sons of some prominent civil servants.Five local companies operating in Dar es Salaam received the stolen billions, acting in the same capacity in which the 13 companies that looted taxpayers’ billions in the external payment arrears account (EPA) scandal benefited.

So far investigators from the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) have established that these five Tanzanians are the prime suspects who siphoned Sh5,876,680,677.74 ($5million) in taxes meant to have been paid by the TTCL to the TRA.The Guardian on Sunday has also established that the PCCB has so far confiscated almost 20 luxury cars, including a BMW-M3, Range Rover Vogue, Toyota Lexus and others believed to have been bought with the stolen money.The PCCB also investigated 14 upscale houses built between July and May which are suspected to have been financed with the dirty money.

The posh houses are located in the Mbezi Beach, Sala Sala, Bahari Beach and Masaki suburbs of Dar es Salaam as well as the Buhongwa suburb outside of Mwanza city on the southern shores of Lake Victoria.The carefully orchestrated theft was carried out between June 2008 and January 2009, before the TRA detected the missing money with the Tanzania Interbank Settlement Systems (TISS) — the electronic money transfer system introduced in the country in 2004.

The five suspects known so far are Marcus Masilla from TTCL, Tuseke Anangisye and Paschal Mayila from the TRA, and Faraji Augustine and Nicholas Kwale from NBC Ltd.One of the suspects was arrested in Nairobi while trying to escape. He was repatriated to his country two weeks ago according to sources within TTCL and PCCB.According to details seen by The Guardian on Sunday, at least three local banks were used in what could be the second biggest corporate fraud in the country's history after the 2005 looting of the central bank's EPA account, in which the government lost $131 million in dubious payments to 22 local firms.

The banks used to transfer at least part of the stolen TRA money include Standard Chartered Bank, National Bank of Commerce and Barclays Bank, The Guardian on Sunday has established.It is believed that the paymaster at TTCL and his counterpart at the TRA had formed a money laundering system taking advantage of the loopholes within the computer system of the two agencies to steal taxpayers’ money.After authorising tax payments to TRA, a recruited agent from the TTCL paymaster’s office informed his counterpart at the tax authority, who then intercepted the payments and distributed them to five different companies with accounts at NBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays Bank.The money was intercepted through the computer system before it even reached the TRA’s large taxpayers’ account at the BoT, though the data at both TTCL and the TRA continued to show that the billions in tax payments had been made.

According to investigators, the fraudsters were able to log onto the system using a special code on TRA.com and then intercept the money that was being transferred from TTCL to the TRA via the TISS system —the online system introduced five years ago to facilitate payments in excess of $8,000 (Tsh10 million).

The theft was done on a monthly basis according to details obtained by The Guardian on Sunday.“I can call it an unholy trinity that involved employees from TTCL, TRA and local banks…It was a well crafted theft, but it did not involve the BoT,” a senior official from the Central Bank told The Guardian on Sunday.

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