By Maureen Odunga and James Kamala
VODACOM Tanzania Managing Director, Hisham Hendi (pictured) and his eight accomplices were yesterday convicted of economic sabotage and sentenced to seven years imprisonment or payment of over 6bn/- fine.
The 6bn/- include the 5.8bn/- loss that the government and Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) suffered and 120m/- as total fine for each of the seven counts that the accused faced.
Besides sentence, the couralso ordered confiscation of the communication equipment that was unlawfully used to receive and transmit signals without approval from the authority. Principal Resident Magistrate at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court Huruma Shaidi meted out the sentence after convicting the accused on their own plea of guilty to the charges.
“I have gone through submissions by both parties and taken to consideration that the accused are first offenders but charges on fraudulently use of virtual numbers without approval might have posed as serious threat to the national security,” said the magistrate, notifying the convicts that failure to pay the 5.8bn/- fine, they will be returned to court for an alternative sentence.
Hendi, an Egyptian, is convicted alongside Head of Revenue Assurance Joseph Gichuhi Nderitu, a Kenyan and Director of Legal Services Olaf Peter Mumburi, a resident of Victoria in Kinondoni.
Others are Head of Enterprise Sales Joseph Muhere, Key Accountant Manager Ibrahim Bonzo and Vodacom Tanzania PLC which is located at Vodacom Tower, Ursino Estate along Bagamoyo Road.
Before the court were also Information Technology Specialist Brian Keneth Lusiola and Business Operations Manager at Inventure MOB TZ LTD Ahmed Hashim Ngassa who were charged with subjecting TCRA to a 642m/- loss.
Earlier, State Attorney Jackline Nyantori told the court that investigations were complete, arguing that after searching the accused’s office premises, TCRA in collaboration with other security organs learnt that there were laptops, mobile phones and 813 simcards, which were diverting incoming international calls to Vodacom Tanzania network and avoiding the rates payable to the government. She added that TCRA ordered an immediate blockage of 813 illegal simcards but it took 14 days to implement the directive.
“The prosecution calls for stiff punishment, which will serve as deterrent to all people bent on committing the offences of similar nature,” urged the State Attorney.
Defence Attorney Seni Malimi pleaded with the court to give lenient punishment to his clients whom he defended as first offenders who had saved the court from disturbance by pleading guilty to the charges.
The prosecution claimed that on unknown dates between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019 at Tanzanite Park Building in Kinondoni district in Dar es Salaam, Ngassa, Luisiola and Inventure Mobile Tanzania Limited or TALA Tanzania imported the electronic communications equipment- PROLIANT MLI GEN 9 SERVER (PABX VIRTUAL MACHINE)-with serial number 76520D88838129425 without TCRA licence.
The three convicts unlawfully installed and maintained the electronic communication equipment without licence. They also unlawfully operated the machine to receive and transmit international incoming voice calls without the licence between April 17, 2018 and March 11, 2019.
With intent to avoid rates payable for receipt or transmission of international voice calls, the convicts dishonestly transmitted communication by terminating international incoming voice calls.
They also unlawfully used the equipment to receive and transmit electronic communications signals without TCRA approval. Further, the convicts fraudulently used 813 Vodacom Tanzania PLC virtual numbers without having any relevant individual or class assignment from TCRA.
The convicts through their willful acts subjected the government and TCRA to a pecuniary loss of 642,276,000/-. In the ninth charge against Hendi, Nderitu, Bonzo and Vodacom Tanzania, on diverse dates between April 17, 2018 and March 11, 2019 at Vodacom Tower, Ursino Estate, the convicts allowed Ngassa, Lusiola and TALA Tanzania to fraudulently use 813 Vodacom Tanzania Virtual Numbers without having any relevant individual assignment from TCRA. They were also charged with subjecting the government and TCRA to the 5,250, 237,000/- pecuniary oss