Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s anti graft agency has launched a manhunt for four business men who allegedly disappeared with a $20 million government loan which they borrowed in order to establish a cement factory.
The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) deputy director general, Brigadier General John Mbungo, said the four (all Tanzanians) have since gone into hiding.
They are being sought over the money which they obtained from the Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB) in 2011 for the establishment of a cement factory in Lindi Region.
The businessmen are said to be the owners of Meis Industries Limited who entered into an agreement with TIB on a government guarantee for the loan to develop the factory.
The $20 million investment agreement in 2009 was between Meis Industries Limited, the government of Tanzania, the government of Libya and TIB.
The investment deal followed a debt swap agreement between the two governments in 2005 over the equivalent sum of money owed to Libya. The money was part of an investment fund offered to the country by Libya and was held in a Libyan account at the bank.
Reports show that Libya, then under the late Muammar Gaddafi, reportedly recommended Meis Industries to carry out the cement project in Lindi.
Brigadier General Mbungo told a press conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the businessmen have disappeared after failing to implement the project.
He named the owners of the company as Islam Balhabou, Merey Awadh Saleh, Sabri Kuleib and Abdallah Bin Aliya.
The said cement factory was to be established at Machole-Mkoani in Lindi. According to Brigadier General Mbungo, the plant has since been abandoned.
He called for the people with information on the whereabouts of the four to contact PCCB.
Yesterday’s briefing by PCCB suggests the anti-corruption agency may be pursuing the traders over corruption related charges.
Even though the Lindi cement investment has been a subject of several court cases in the past, it would be the first time that PCCB has come out publicly to link it to an investigation.
In 2016, former Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe issued a statement disassociating himself from alleged links to Meis Industries or the Libya debt.
Mr Membe dismissed the allegations as political witch-hunt, saying he was neither a shareholder nor business associate of individuals linked to Meis Industries.
Mr Membe was Foreign Affairs minister during the time of the debt swap, and acknowledged in his explanation that he had only been involved to closely represent the country’s interest in the matter as appropriate.
Meis Industries received the funds after suing the other parties in court following failure by Libya to append its signature in the investment agreement.
Efforts by TIB and the attorney general to challenge the company’s right to receive the loan were defeated in court.
The company was supposed to establish the cement factory using the loan and repay it in six years of operations.
The repaid amount was supposed to be ploughed back in projects agreed between the two countries, according to the debt swap agreement.