UAE investor rejects Tanzania graft accusations

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A UAE businessman has denied allegations in a US cable that he offered gifts to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as well as donating US$1 million to the ruling party in exchange for investment deals in the east African country.

The managing director of Albwardy Investment, which is owned by Dubai-based investor Ali Albwardy, described the accusations published by WikiLeaks from a February 2006 U.S. cable as “monstrous and totally untrue”.
“At no time has a bribe been either requested or given to President Kikwete by Mr. Ali Albwardy, the UAE owner of the Kilimanjaro hotel,” Philip d’Abo said in a statement issued via the president’s office in Tanzania on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

A spokesman for the Tanzanian president’s office on Monday also denied Kikwete had accepted gifts from Albwardy.

The US cable said Albwardy, who owns a hotel chain in Tanzania, flew the African leader to London on a shopping trip and bought designer suits for the president.
“At no time has Mr. Albwardy either paid for the airfare for the president to visit London or purchased even one suit for him from Savile Row. This is a total fabrication as is the part concerning the US$1 million donation to the CCM by Mr. Albwardy,” he said.
“At no time has Ali Albwardy given President Kikwete anything that can be construed as a bribe … the president feels equally upset to be falsely accused particularly as the source of this memorandum is supposedly a representative of both a friend and an ally.”

The U.S. cable comes at a sensitive time for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party as it faces potential political fallout from graft allegations against some other senior members, including a former prime minister.

Kikwete came to power in 2005 on a strong anti-corruption platform, but his government has since been criticised for failing to tackle large-scale graft.

In May, donor countries slashed funding pledges for Tanzania’s 2011/12 budget, citing concerns about corruption and the slow pace of reforms.

Albwardy owns three hotels in Tanzania — the Kilimanjaro Hotel in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, a beach hotel in Zanzibar and a lodge in the Serengeti national park — through the company Albwardy Investment.

The Kilimanjaro Hotel was the country’s flagship state-owned hotel until it was sold to Albwardy in 2002, under the previous CCM administration.

The leaked files show the allegation about the presidential gifts was made to the former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Michael Retzer, by an Australian national who was a former director of the Kilimanjaro Hotel.
“Kikwete probably believes there is no harm in taking these ‘little gifts’ to do what he would have been inclined to do anyway. That said, they are what they are: bribes,” the U.S. cable stated.

Presidential spokesman Salva Rweyemamu has said the former director quoted in the U.S. embassy cable as the source of the information had sent an email to the Tanzanian government dismissing the reports as untrue.