Questions over DPP’s stolen files

Saturday October 19 2019

President John Magufuli receives files from the

President John Magufuli receives files from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Biswalo Mganga at the State House in Dar es Salaam at a function during which it was revealed that more than 460 suspects had lined up to enter plea-bargaining to secure their release from prison. PHOTO | FILE 

By Khalifa Said @ThatBoyKhalifax ksaid@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Home Affairs minister Kangi Lugola and his Justice and Constitutional Affairs counterpart Dr Augustine Mahiga are on the spot following the theft of computers with sensitive information from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution.

Sunday’s theft of the computers from one of the busiest public offices in recent times was as dramatic as it was unprecedented, and has left many questions unanswered.

And even as the public eagerly awaits official information about the theft, the manner in which authorities were treating the unfolding event has added to more speculations about the real motive and identity of the people behind the incident.

Mr Kangi Lugola whose docket is security and Dr Mahiga under whose command the DPP’s office falls, have all not come out to shed light on the matter since the said office raid on Sunday night. Local media only reported the theft yesterday after a leak.

When reached for comment on phone yesterday, Mr Lugola directed all questions to Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro who referred the same to the Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone commander Lazaro Mambosasa who was not available on phone most of the day.

Dr Mahiga was also unavailable for comment. The minister is today scheduled to hold a press conference over unspecified issues. The DPP himself, Biswalo Mganga, has kept mum and efforts to see him in his office bore no fruits as his secretary said he was busy.

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Man of interest

Mr Biswalo has been a man of public interest of late, steering what is now a frenzied environment as hundreds of convicts and remandees, mostly those faced with economic crimes, money laundering and corruption charges, line up in his office for plea-bargaining to entangle themselves from the accusations or buy out their freedom.

In a span of four months since parliament enacted a plea-bargaining law in the criminal justice system, in June, Biswalo’s office has become a beehive as the government cashed in to raise billions of shillings from the recanting suspects.

More than Sh40 billion has been collected in fines from only 10 high profile cases in the recent weeks by the DPP who was nudged on by President John Magufuli who announced an “amnesty” period for the would be suspects and convicts to enter plea-bargaining. It was announced at State House last month that 467 individuals had shown interest to enter negotiations with the DPP.

It is likely therefore that the theft of the DPP’s computers at this time would not only leave many dumbfounded but also attract wild conspiracy theorists. That an office so critical would be broken into at night without any alarm being raised, points to the guts and intent of the plotters.

Tight security

Mr Biswalo’s office is nested in Sukari House at the junction of Sokoine Drive and Pamba Street. It is close to the Court of Appeal building and Life House, all of which are key installations in the city centre with ample 24-hour security.

In the absence of any information whether the police were holding anyone for interrogation, questions would be asked who authorised the mission and what their real aim is. The media reported yesterday that CCTV cameras at the offices were disabled to facilitate undetectable passage of the assailants.

The reports say staff in the DPP’s office realised in the morning of October 15 that the computers containing data of all suspects accused of economic sabotage cases were stolen. Sources says panic kicked in as the missing computers contained useful information on people who had already entered plea-bargaining agreements, with others having even paid the billions.

Why anyone would want custody of such information will remain a matter of speculations for now until the government released any information to shed more light. But many speculations pointed to two likely scenarios – that the stolen data would be part of a search for possible fraud or corruption dealings in the DPP’s office or it was an elaborate plan to erase incriminating evidence on the same plea-bargaining negotiations.

Corruption

Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe recently accused the DPP’s office of corruption, claiming it had been turned into a den to force payments in millions of shillings from suspects.

Kabwe’s claim is unsubstantiated but hushed tones in the corridors of justice have alluded to the same possibility.

Mr Biswalo earlier issued a statement on October 3, raising alarm over what he said was connivance by advocates to get money from individuals who had shown interest to enter plea-bargaining. During the same time, Chief Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma separately issued a circular to Judges handling the plea-bargaining cases to stick to the law and consult widely on its interpretation, as the legal fraternity raised concern about the confusion the whole matter had created.

With this high stake interest, analysts say it would be of interest to know who may have authorised the theft of the data and what end result was anticipated. “We would be very surprised if the information gets lost. Actually, I cannot even imagine under what circumstances did that theft happen,” said Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) executive director Anna Henga.

Mr Kabwe who in April unsuccessfully sought Parliament intervention to investigate the DPP’s office over corruption when it handed plea-bargaining deals before the law was passed, now argues the theft of the documents was meant to destroy incriminating evidence. It was not clear yet what information those who stole the computers were after.

Billionaire link

Dr Onesmo Kyauki, a lawyer said” “There is security there and I have some difficulty figuring out how the theft could have happened. And do we know how many computers were stolen? It’s quite confusing,” he told The Citizen.

Some commentators wondered whether the theft was in anyway linked to the release of prominent businessman Mohamed Yusufal who reportedly splashed out Sh1.1 billion in cash to win freedom in a case that he was accused of causing the government Sh24.4 billion shillings in tax evasion. He would pay the remaining amount in instalments but had paid the deposit on October 11 before the court entered the judgment setting him free.