A Dar es Salaam court on August 20 sentenced Air Tanzania's former director-general, David Mataka, to four years imprisonment or a fine of TZS8 million shillings (USD3,450) after he was found guilty of abuse-of-office and causing a loss of TZS100 billion (USD43.1 million) to the Tanzanian state.

According to the state-run Daily News newspaper, his co-accused, former-public procurement chief Ramadhani Mlinga and lawyer Bertha Soka – both formerly of the country's Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) – were each sentenced to one year in jail or a fine of TZS2million (USD862) after being convicted on charges of forgery.

The long-standing trial in the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam revolved around the lease of a used A320-200 - 5H-MWH (msn 630) - from Wallis Trading Inc. in Liberia in 2007, without proper tender procedures and in non-compliance with public procurement laws. The accused were charged in 2016.

Handing down the sentences, Magistrate Janeth Mtega said the court was satisfied by the evidence presented by 18 witnesses for the prosecution, reported the Daily News.

She found that Mataka had abused his office in October 2007 by signing aircraft lease agreements and certificates of acceptance, disregarding technical and legal advice. He had also willfully disregarded legal advice from the Attorney-General, thus costing the government as a guarantor of the deal to suffer a pecuniary loss of USD43.1 million.

The magistrate found ample evidence that Milinga and Soka on March 19, 2008, had forged minutes to achieve the retrospective approval of the aircraft lease.

News reports about the scam first emerged in February 2012 in Tanzania’s Guardian on Sunday, revealing that the country’s Cabinet chaired by the then President Jakaya Kikwete was only informed of the deal nine months after it had been signed.

Air Tanzania had leased the A320-200 for a period of six years, but the aircraft was only in the airline's possession for 48 months, 41 of which it was grounded for major technical repairs in France, according to local reports.

In February last year, a UK court ordered Air Tanzania to pay USD30.1 million plus interest to Wallis in outstanding lease payments despite the Tanzanian government's claims that the contracts had been signed illegally. It argued that Mattaka had entered into the lease without consulting with, let alone obtaining approval from, the airline's board of Air Tanzania. This was subsequently rejected by the magistrate who cited evidence such as board meeting minutes dating from 2007 and a state guarantee for the airline’s liabilities.