Tue, Dec 21, 2010 - Page 6 News List

WIKILEAKS: Prosecutor probing Tanzanian ‘dirty’ arms deal feared threat from the rich

The Guardian, LONDON

The Tanzanian prosecutor investigating worldwide misconduct by BAE, Britain’s biggest arms company, confided to US diplomats that “his life may be in danger,” and corrupt senior politicians in his small African country were “untouchable.”

A leaked account of what the head of Tanzania’s anti-corruption bureau, Edward Hoseah, termed the “dirty deal” by BAE to sell Tanzania an overpriced radar system, is revealed in the US embassy cables.

BAE was to appear in court in London yesterday, when their system of making secret payments to secure arms contracts, exposed by the Guardian, will be officially detailed for the first time.

Every individual involved in the BAE scandal in Britain and Tanzania has escaped prosecution. However, the arms giant agreed with the UK Serious Fraud Office to pay £30 million (US$46.6 million) in corporate reparations and fines, provided the word “corruption” did not appear on the indictment. A corruption conviction would debar the company from EU contracts.

“It was always obvious that this useless project was corrupt,” -Former British Overseas Development secretary Clare Short said at the time.

Hoseah met a US diplomat, Purnell Delly, in Dar es Salaam in July 2007, and claimed (unrealistically it turned out) he would be able to prosecute guilty individuals in the BAE case.

“He called the deal ‘dirty’ and said it involved officials from the [Tanzanian] Ministry of Defence and at least one or two senior level military officers,” the US cable said.

Hoseah spoke gloomily about the prospects for Tanzania’s anti-corruption struggle and his original hopes to prosecute the “big fish” of corruption.

“He told us point blank ... that cases against the prime minister or the president were off the table ... He has revealed that former [Tanzanian] president Benjamin Mkapa and certain members of Mkapa’s inner circle may also be untouchable, many of whom have ministerial or sub-ministerial posts in [Tanzanian President Jakaya] Kikwete’s government,” the cable said.

“He noted that President Kikwete does not appear comfortable letting the law handle corruption cases which might implicate -top-level officials ... He does not want to set a precedent by going after his predecessor,” the cable added.

There were “widespread rumours of corruption within the Bank of Tanzania,” Hoseah said, and the island region of Zanzibar was also “rife with corruption.”

“Hoseah reiterated concern for his personal security ... saying he believed his life may be in danger ... He had received threatening text messages and letters and was reminded every day that he was fighting the ‘rich and powerful,’” the diplomat said.

The US embassy noted in a “cynical” aside, that probably the only reason Hoseah felt obliged to attempt a BAE prosecution was because the UK fraud office had presented him with “a fully developed case file, brimming with detailed evidence.”

Yesterday’s court appearance by BAE is the culmination of lengthy attempts to bring the company to justice since the Guardian exposed its worldwide secret payment system.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair intervened in 2006 to halt an investigation into payments to members of the Saudi royal family.

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