|DPP Elieza Fereshi|
As part of the verdict, the court also instructed the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to collect all the money from DECI sources after the accused were found guilty of two offences including operating a financial institution without an appropriate license.
The accused who are pastors of Pentecostal churches are Jackson Mtares, Dominic Kigendi, Samuel Mtares and Timotheo Ole Loitingye. All the four accused deceived their followers who trusted them as religious leaders and swindled them out of millions.
On August 19 this year before Resident Magistrate Aloyce Katemana on behalf of Resident Magistrate Stuwart Sanga issued the verdict.
However the DPP was not satisfied with the ruling and submitted a notice of appeal against the verdict which didn’t show who is to refund DECI members.
However, in the judgment, the court acquitted Arbogast Francis, who was not found guilty.
During the judgment, Defence Advocate, Hudson Ndusyepo attempted to plead the cleric’s case seeking the court’s sympathy on account of his clients’ elderly ages. When that didn’t work, he claimed that there were numerous persons living off the accused and would suffer severely should the four be jailed.
But after the prosecution team, led by State Attorney Prosper Mwangamila presented 16 witnesses between July 17 and August 19, this year, the court was able to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the accused had committed the offence and were guilty as charged.
Mwangamila requested the court to confiscate assets that the accused have amassed in the past six years, noting that the priests had bought lands, buildings, vehicles and saved huge sums of money at the expense of their unsuspecting congregations.
Two of the accused remain in custody after having failed to meet the fine terms, while Timotheo Ole Loitingye and Mtares were set free after paying a fine of 21m/-.
An alert by the media helped give voice to the largely innocent public and to wake overly gullible government agencies from the sad fact that church elders were involved in a money scheme luring hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting citizens out of their hard earned money.
According to media reports, by May 14, 2009, at least half a million people had sunk billions of shillings into the scheme, some having borrowed from banks, rickety family budgets and savings and credit cooperative societies for the purpose.
However when the media was revealing the scheme, bishops from the 82 Pentecostal Church of Tanzania which represents several churches, called media reports ‘raging rumours driven by ignorance, ill-will and vendettas.’