Of all the dramatic developments last weekend, as CCM gathered in Dodoma to select their presidential candidate, one thing in particular stood out. Mid-morning on the day after Lowassa’s name was cut from the list of presidential aspirants, a man was found at St Gaspar’s Hotel with 725m/- (around $350k) in cash in suitcases:
So what exactly happened? Let’s follow the story as it developed:
The breaking news:
“False information is being circulated that “Membe’s man” has been arrested in Dodoma with money … this kind of politics is out of line as they do not build our country. I ask you not to be deceived by people who want to stain us.”
Later, the accusations shifted to Lowassa’s camp, for two main reasons. First, the discovery took place in the hotel where many of Lowassa’s team were staying, and second, the arrested man identified himself as, Amit Kevaramani, an employee of Quality Group, whose owner, Yusuf Manji, is said to be among Lowassa’s financial backers:
Details become clearer:
The story made the papers, with both Nipashe and the Guardian putting the story on the front page:
From the Guardian:
“Eyewitnesses said police agents started quizzing what the Quality Group employee was doing, as he shifted massive bags one after another taking them to a waiting car outside the hotel.”
“The precise amount of impounded cash was not immediately established but witnesses say police counted the money as they impounded it, and reached the figure of Sh 725,205,000.”
“On the arrested employee’s mobile phone there were SMS from his employer, billionaire Yusuf Manji who allegedly has business association with some prominent camps in the ruling party.”
There was also an article in the Citizen:
“The suspect was confronted at the hotel by supporters of Mr Edward Lowassa, who had put up their operation base there. They forced him to open two bags he was carrying and found millions of shillings in Sh10,000, Sh5,000, and Sh2,000 notes.”
“The drama unfolded a few metres from where former Attorney General and Cabinet minister Andrew Chenge was seated with other “Team Lowassa” members having breakfast. Mr Chenge watched the unfolding drama without saying anything.”
The perfectly logical explanation:
Later in the week, statements were issued by the Dodoma Police and by Manji himself, which made it clear that there was a completely honest explanation for Kevalramani to be carrying this much money in cash in Dodoma at exactly the moment when CCM was making its big decisions.
From Manji’s statement:
“The honest truth is that on July 10th, 2015, Mr Amit Kevalramani arrived in Dodoma from Dar es Salaam in a private plane, in order to deliver money for the purchase of rice and maize in Dodoma from M/S Tanrice Grains and Pulses Ltd – a subsidiary of M/s Quality Group Ltd, of which Mr Yusuf Manji is the Chairman.”
“Mr Kevalramani was supposed to meet on 10th July with people involved in the purchase from the side of Tanrice Ltd, whereupon Mr Kevalramani had planned to return from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam on a plane at 9.30pm on Saturday 11th July. This meeting was delayed, and Mr Kevalramani was given another ticket from Dodoma to Dar which would leave at 4.30 on Saturday July 12, 2015. [Sic]”
“Around 9.30am, Mr Kevalramani left his hotel, and as he was going to his rented car, he was attacked by thieves and during the scuffle that followed, one of the bags with money ripped open, which caused security forces to come to the scene. After seeing their efforts had failed, the thieves pretended to be CCM supporters staying at the same hotel and started to make noise, calling “corruption,” which drew the attention of journalists.” *
The statement goes on to remind people that Mr Manji has been involved in a long-standing dispute with Reginald Mengi, the owner of IPP media, which publishes Nipashe and The Guardian newspapers, as well as ITV. And it poses several questions to IPP, including:
“Why should a small amount of money (722.5m/-) change the image of national politics, when the claims come from the owner of a media company who says his own income is more than 1.24tn/-?”
“Why should someone who has been entrusted by Quality Group with the equivalent of just $321,000 be taken to have committed a crime by having this money, … when the cost of running Yanga football club each season over the past five seasons is much more than this amount?” **
The statement by the Dodoma Regional Police Commander presented a similar summary of the case, reaching the following conclusions:
“We found that there was no proven criminal offence despite the amount of money. The allegations of corruption, which were the principal reason for arresting this person, were unproven, as nobody had seen him handing out the money and nobody claimed to have been persuaded by or given the money.”
“Further, it has been established that the money were legitimately his property and because there was no evidence to the contrary his money has been returned to him.” ***
So we can all relax. It was just unfortunate timing that Kevalramani was found with a “small amount” of cash in suitcases in precisely the same place and at exactly the moment when 348 CCM NEC members were about to make their party’s biggest decision in ten years. The only practical way that Quality Group could realistically transfer this money to a subsidiary is to fly a private plane to Dodoma to hand over the money in cash. That he stayed the night in the same hotel as many CCM party members is pure coincidence. There is no reason for anyone to think that the money was intended for corrupt purposes. And it’s wonderful that the police have cleared it all up.
Tanrice and Quality Group thanked the police for their quick resolution of the case.
Original Swahili of translated quotes:
* Ukweli halisi ni kwamba tarehe 10 Julai, 2015, Bw. Amit Kevalramani aliwasili kwa ndege binafsi kutoka Dar es Salaam kwenda Dodoma ili kupeleka fedha za kununua mchele na mahindi mkoani wa Dodoma katika kampuni la M/s Tanrice Grains & Pulses Limited – kampuni tanzu la M/s Quality Group Limited, ambalo Mwenyekiti wake ni Bw. Yusuf Manji.
Bw. Amit Kevalramani alikuwa akutane tarehe hiyo ya Julai 10, 2015 na watu wenye kuhusika na manunuzi kutoka kampuni ya M/s Tanrice Grains & Pulses Limited, ambapo Bw. Amit Kevalramani alikuwa amepanga kurejea kutoka Dodoma kwenda Dar es Salaam kwa ndege ya saa 3:30 siku ya Jumamosi, Julai 11, 2015. Mkutano huo ulichelewa, na Bw. Amit Kevalramani alipewa tiketi nyingine ya ndege kutoka Dodoma kwenda Dar es Salaam ambayo ingeondoka saa 10:30 siku ya Jumamosi, Julai 12, 2015.
Kunako kama saa 3:30 asubuhi, Bw. Amit Kevalramani aliondoka katika hoteli yake, na wakati akielekea kwenye gari alilokuwa amekodishiwa, alivamiwa na wezi na katika mapambano yaliyotokea, begi moja lililokuwa na fedha lilichanika, na hivyo kuwafanya maofisa usalama kufika mara moja katika eneo hilo. Baada ya kuona njama zao zimekwama, wezi hao wakajifanya kuwa wafuasi wa CCM waliokuwa wamepanga katika hoteli hiyo na kuanza kupiga makelele wakisema “rushwa”, jambo ambalo liliwavuta watu wa vyombo vya habari kwenda hapo.
** Kwa nini na kwa namna gani kiasi kidogo cha fedha cha Sh. Milioni 722.5 (sawa na Dola za Marekani 321,000) kiweze kubadili taswira za kisiasa nchini, kutokana na madai yanayotoka kwa mmiliki wa vyombo vya habari ambaye hudai kipato chake cha jumla ni zaidi ya Sh. Trilioni 1.24 trillion au Dola za Marekani milioni 550?
Kwa nini mtu ambaye amekabidhiwa na kampuni la Quality Group kiasi cha fedha ambacho ni sawa na Dola za Marekani 321,000 tu, achukuliwe kwamba alikuwa anatenda kosa la jinai kuwa na fedha hizo kwa mujibu wa vyombo vya habari vya Mengi, wakati gharama ya kuihudumia klabu ya Yanga kila msimu wa ligi katika misimu mitano iliyopita kiasi hicho cha fedha ni kidogo mno kikilinganishwa na kile kinachotolewa na Quality Group?
*** Katika tukio hili na uchunguzi tulioufanya tumebaini kuwa hakuna kosa la jinai lililothibitika licha ya kukutwa na kiasi hicho cha fedha, tuhuma za rushwa ambazo ndiyo zilikuwa msingi wa ukamataji wa mtu huyo hazikuthibitika, kwa kuwa hakuna aliyeona akizigawa fedha hizo wala hakuna aliyedai kushawishiwa au kugawiwa fedha hizo.
Aidha imethibitika fedha hizo ni mali yake halali na kwa kuwa hakuna ushahidi mwingine uliyo thibitisha vinginevyo amerejeshewa fedha zake.