Tanzania’s President John Magufuli announced an extension to an economic crimes amnesty Monday after prosecutors were flooded with 467 requests in the initial seven-day period.
Demand for the amnesty, which allows suspects to negotiate their freedom from jail, has been so great that Magufuli agreed to extend the offer for another week.
The amnesty allows suspects held in jail for non-bailable economic crimes – mostly money laundering – to pay the government and have charges dropped against them.
Director of public prosecutions (DPP) Biswalo Mganga said 467 people had applied for the amnesty and were willing to pay a total of 107.84 billion Tanzanian shillings ($46 million, 42 million euro) to the government.
“Some of these people are ready to pay up-front and others committed to do that in instalments,” Mganga said as he briefed Magufuli in a televised event. Other applications had not arrived in time, he added.
Magufuli agreed to extend the amnesty for another seven days until 6 October.
“I urge you, the DPP and other responsible organs to hasten the process and set these people free once they completed the payment,” said Magufuli.
“After that period, make sure you deal with new economic crime cases in accordance with normal legal procedure. I don’t want to reach a point where people would be thinking that there is no more economic crime in Tanzania.”
In a similar initiative earlier this month, the Tanzanian parliament amended criminal laws to allow for plea bargaining in certain crimes in a bid to reduce backlogs in the judicial system.
It allows the accused to negotiate with prosecutors and plead guilty for a more lenient sentence.
The new legislation came after several such special agreements with prosecutors.
In April, leading mobile phone service provider Vodacom, agreed to plead guilty and pay 5.28 billion Tanzanian shillings to the government after its managing director, Hisham Hendi, and four other executives were charged with economic crimes.