To date, it remains obvious that the $44 million (Sh70 billion) radar purchased from UK’s British Aerospace Engineering (BAE Systems) was tainted by corruption from the very beginning, even though BAE System claimed in the UK that there was just minor accounting error, euphemism for a direct admission that the deal was marred by corruption.
However, what still puzzles many is the position taken by the UK government itself over this scandal. Every time that this scandal resurfaces in our political platforms, the UK through its High Commission in Dar es Salaam has issued statements stating that the British government was ready to assist Tanzania to ensure that all key suspects are prosecuted before the court of law.
This is a puzzling posture because the very same UK has failed to assist Tanzania to extradite three Britons who were part of the network that swindled $12 million paid out by BAE System in bribes after the transaction of the radar deal.
On December 4, 2011, The Tanzania Guardian on Sunday exclusively reported that three top suspects in the radar scandal who swindled $12 million paid as bribery by BAE Systems are British citizens, currently living comfortably in London, despite the UK pressure for Tanzania to seek prosecutions for bribery in relation to a $44m (£28m) defence equipment deal.
Taking the advantage of the information vacuum about the real culprits behind the scandal, so far some UK politicians have managed to play their game very well by making Tanzanians believe that it is government officials in Dar es Salaam regime who have been protecting the key suspects in the radar scandal.
In 2010 BAE was fined for concealing payments of $12.4m to Sailesh Vithlani. BAE claimed the payments to Vithlani were for lobbying and marketing. After an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), BAE was ordered to repay the full value of the contract to the people of Tanzania.
This week again the UK issued a statement, stating that the British government was willing anytime to help Tanzania prosecute all prime suspects in the radar case scandal. According to the British government, the out of court settlement doesn’t bar Tanzania from proceeding with prosecutions against all prime suspects in this case.
However to the contrary, it’s the UK authorities that have been shielding three top suspects who received a chunk of the radar bribery billions from being prosecuted.
For the past two years, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) investigators have totally failed in their bid to ensure that the top three Britons accused of receiving bribery during the deal, after UK showed no sign of cooperation.
The three Britons accused in the scandal include the radar mastermind, Sailesh Vithlani, Jonathan Mark Colman and Christopher Nuqvi. While Vithlani was born in Mwanza city on the southern shores of Lake Victoria, he is a UK citizen with passport number 500326824, issued in London in 1998.
Vithlani has been moving between UK and Switzerland since he jumped bail in Dar es Salaam in 2006, despite an international arrest warrant issued by International Police (Interpol) five years ago.
In 2009 Vithlani was briefly arrested by SFO, questioned, but was controversially released by the UK authorities while knowing that he was the prime suspect with Interpol’s arrest warrant on his head.
The second accused, Jonathan Mark Colman who was the Commercial Manager for BAE Systems during the Sh70billion transaction is a UK citizen, currently living in London.
Colman received about $600,000 through his offshore bank account in Panama between 1999 and 2001.
If UK was really committed in helping Tanzania to prosecute the radar suspects, then the British government should go beyond the public statements by arresting and extraditing the three top suspects who Britons.
Actions speak louder than words, and therefore the British government should act immediately by handling over the three suspects currently living in UK, so that they be taken to court in Tanzania.