SEVEN prominent mineral dealers are being held by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) in Arusha for attempting to bribe senior government officials to facilitate smuggling the precious Tanzanite gemstones outside the country.
PCCB’s Director General Brigadier General John Mbungo told reporters on Friday that suspects, led by Joel Saitoti Mollel and Rakesh Kumar Gokhroo, had on separate occasions used money to entice workers at the mineral trading hubs in Arusha and Manyara to undervalue the gemstones and evade tax.
The move, according to the anti-corruption czar, denied the government billions of shillings in revenue.
“The suspects have on more than one occasion tried to smuggle the precious gemstones outside the country, well knowing that it has since been prohibited,” Brig Gen Mbungo said.
He said that the suspects had also tried to illegally transfer minerals from Mirerani Hills in Simanjiro District without using the trading hubs which were established to curb and eliminate illegal exporting and crack down on tax evasion.
PCCB is currently investigating the wealth of properties and business ventures owned and managed by the suspects, which is worth 7.2bn/-, the PCCB head explained.
“We are quizzing them because the manner of their acquisition of such wealth raises a lot of eyebrows in connection to their misconduct in trading of the minerals,” he said.
Mollel, the Managing Director of Gem and Rock Ventures Company Limited (GR) based in Arusha, is said to own a collection of properties in Arusha city, valued at 4.7bn/-, while his wife, Caren Saitoti Mollel, who is also one of the suspects, has a fleet of posh cars estimated to cost 610m/.
On his part, Mr Gokhroo, owner of Color Clarity Limited of Arusha, is said to own a fleet of expensive cars and minerals worth 895m/-.
Another suspect on PCCB’s list is Naiman Emmanuel Mollel, believed to own properties worth 574m/-, while George Paul Kivuyo, alias Lekoo, is being held for illegally owning properties estimated to cost anything around 300m/-.
Meanwhile, PCCB is also questioning, one, Daudi Saimalie Lairumbe, a lawyer with Northern Law Chambers Advocates and Legal Consultants, for his involvement in sealing dubious deals with owners of Gem and Rock Ventures Company Limited.
Last year, the government amended the Mining Act to push for the introduction of mineral buying and trading centres.
The centres are intended to provide a means of formalising the currently flawed trading system, giving small-scale miners access to a government-regulated market where they can directly and legally trade gold without the necessity of travelling to major cities.