THE Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam yesterday acquitted the Managing Director of Richmond Development Company, Mr Naeem Gire on fraud charges relating to the company’s capacity to produce 100MW of electricity in Tanzania.
Principal Resident Magistrate Cyprian Mkeha ruled in favour of the accused person, ending the pending criminal trial on a Richmond Company scandal, which had led former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa to resign from his post in 2008.
The magistrate found that the prosecution, through its nine witnesses, had miserably failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal cases. During the trial, the prosecution had also tendered six documentary exhibits in attempt to prove the charges in question.
In the trial, the prosecution had alleged that on March 13, 2006, in Dar es Salaam, with intent to defraud, Naeem forged a power of attorney, purportedly showing that Mohamed Gire, the Chairman of Richmond Development Company LLC of Texas, US, had signed the said power attorney. The prosecution had alleged that the said power of attorney authorised Naeem of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to carry on the business of the company in Tanzania.
The court heard further that on March 20, 2006, the accused uttered the said document at Umeme Park Ubungo, along Morogoro Road. In his judgment, however, the magistrate noted that the signatures of the accused person have not been the subject of examination anywhere.
Instead, he observed, what was examined by handwriting experts was signatures of Mohamed Gire in the documents involved in the transaction. Such examination, according to the magistrate, could not in any way link the accused person who was alleged to have forged the documents in question.
“Under such circumstances, the offences against the accused have not been proved. The accused person is acquitted forthwith,” he declared. Immediately after delivery of the judgment, advocate Alex Mgongolwa, said he has been satisfied with the findings of the court and finally justice has been done, though it has been delayed for so long.
He pointed out that the nature of evidence given could not anyhow lead to the conviction of his client. Richmond Company was hired by Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) to produce 100MW of electricity following a prolonged drought, which adversely affected power production in 2005, but allegedly failed to generate such power.
On July 28, 2011, Principal Resident Magistrate Waliarwande Lema of the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court acquitted Naeem on five counts of forgery, uttering false documents and giving false information, citing insufficient evidence produced by prosecution witnesses.
The prosecution appealed to the High Court against such decision. In his ruling, Judge Lawrence Kaduri said, “upon analysis, I am of the view that the evidence adduced by the prosecution witnesses was sufficient to require the respondent (Naeem) to be put to his defence.”
Judge Kaduri held that two counts of forgery and uttering false documents against Naeem were sufficiently proved to require him give his defence, as the prosecution had made a “prima facie” case leading irresistibly to his guilt if he would not refute the established evidence against him.
“I therefore order that the case proceed on the two counts from where it ended before another magistrate with competent jurisdiction,” the judge ruled. It was at that point in time the matter was taken back to the lower court, where the accused entered his defence testimony.
The controversy surrounding Richmond Company regarding its capacity to generate power attracted intervention by the National Assembly in 2008 and formed a Parliamentary Selected Committee, led by Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, now Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Such Committee conducted an inquiry and upon releasing its report, called for resignation of all top government officials implicated in the controversial contract with Richmond. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who was adversely mentioned in the report, decided to resign.
He (Lowassa) was followed by Mr Nazir Karamagi and Dr Ibrahim Msabaha, the then Ministers of Energy and Minerals and Minister for East African Cooperation, respectively, who were also mentioned in the report.
The members of the committee also said the government should on its own take stern disciplinary measures, including dismissing its officials who caused the country to incur huge losses by entering into the controversial contract.
Dr Mwakyembe was quoted as saying that his team had proved that the Richmond contract and its inheritor (Dowans) overlooked the critical law provisions, reeked of corruption and showed undue influence peddling by senior government officials.