Tanzanian company registration instruments, just like the East African country’s banking institutions, are unaware of a company that has allegedly channeled over Shilling 1.4 trillion (620 million USD) through its account for three years.

The companies’ registrar office in Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial capital, has no details of Landfall Universe Limited, an entity which claims to be registered in Tanzania.

Online and manual traces at Business Registration and Licensing Agency (Brela) office in the city reveal nothing even approximating the name Landfall Universe Limited. This raises the suspicion that the company is fictitious, established for a specific task; money laundering.

This investigative story is the result of a 16- month-long journalistic research dubbed FinCEN Files, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), BuzzFeed News and partners. It is based on top-secret bank reports filed with the U.S. Treasury Department’s intelligence unit, the Financial Crime Enforcement Network, other documents and dozens of interviews. These sources provide a unique, bird’s-eye view of suspected illicit money flows that may have supported worldwide corruption and criminality.

Investigations by our reporter show that Landfall Universe Limited channeled a total amount of USD 620,347,859 from 182 transactions remitted or received by the company at Standard Chartered Bank from Tanzania. All these money flows occurred from July 25, 2013 through January 11, 2016.

Standard Chartered Bank from Tanzania (commonly known as Stanchart Tanzania) has distanced itself from doing business with Landfall Universe Limited at any time since it started operation in the East African country. The bank was established in Tanzania in 1917.

When Stanchart Tanzania was shown the bank account supposedly used to transact the huge amount of money in USD bills, the bank said it has never operated any accounts of that nature. The bank accounts seen by this reporter which were involved in the money flows start with seven zeros (0000000).

It has been revealed that Stanchart Tanzania account numbers starts with 01…..   for Tanzania Shillings and 87….  for USD – all with 13 digits.

Investigations show that Stanchart Tanzania received or sent money to a sister bank in Hong Kong, in City of Victoria, some 5,000 miles from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong is commonly known as SCBHK.

SCBHK has admitted receiving and sending money on behalf of Landfall Universe Limited but was unable to identify any information about the company supposedly registered in Tanzania.

When contacted on why SCBHK was engaged in huge money transfers, the Hong Kong financial institution claimed that it was furnished with paperwork purporting to establish the legitimacy of the transactions.

SCBHK subsequently disclosed that Landfall Universe Limited is located at Palm Residency Building Apartment, No. F10  – Pot 45/46, Chimara Road, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

This reporter paid an impromptu visit to Palm Residency, a high-rise 18 floor ultra modern structure at room number F10 where Landfall claims to be headquartered, only to find out that the 10th floor consists only of residential apartments and not office space. The structure has seventy-two unit residential apartment complexes.

Palm Residency Apartment manager, Nehra Clo, said the entire 10th floor was designed for residential rooms and it has never been rented as offices to anyone ever since.

This reporter established that the said room number possesses all the attributes of a family residence which has three bedrooms with fitted beds, chairs and wardrobes, a modern kitchen, and a spacious sitting room with four big sofas.

It was revealed that a Chinese national rents the room said to house Landfall Universe company.

For months, this reporter attempted to contact the tenant but he always declined to meet. However, when asked – over the phone, if he worked with Landfall Universe Limited, the tenant refuted this, disclosing that he works with a construction company. He has refused to reveal his name, but checks by this reporter shows that his mobile telephone number is registered to one “Fundi Bomba” – which is Swahili words for a plumber.

Tanzania’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) states it is actively trying to locate Landfall Universe Limited, but in vain.

The primary function of the FIU is to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism in Tanzania. It is therefore responsible for receiving suspicious transaction reports from reporting persons, in relation to suspected money laundering and terrorist financing activities, analyzing and disseminating intelligence to appropriate law enforcement agencies for investigation and further action.

Normally, banks require extensive paperwork like passports, verified addresses, and other documents – when someone opens an account. The most basic step to stop money laundering is to “know your customer,”

Fictitious address…

A retired banker, Salum Machibya, said Landfall Universe Limited is basically a shell company – it used a fictitious address to open a bank account with Stanchart Hong Kong, then it sent USD 650 million across the globe.

“Normally, banks require extensive paperwork like passports, verified addresses, and other documents – when someone opens an account. The most basic step to stop money laundering is to “know your customer,” he added.

He said, Landfall didn’t open accounts in Tanzania, it was a fictitious, but wondered how it operated; sending and receiving money.

The other companies…

Investigations show that another company also received money from Landfall Universe Limited, Sichuan Hongda Group Company Limited (SHG). SHG has identified Landfall as its commodity trading agent of non-ferrous metals.

SHG has been identified as a mining company subsidiary of Hanlong Group, listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Financial transaction data reveals that SHG is the beneficiary of more than $350 million in remittances from Landfall.

SHG is among other companies that received huge payments from Landfall, which originated more than one hundred (100) remittances to SHG. These payments ranged from approximately $135,000 to more than $18.4 million, with some of the transactions occurring on the same dates.

According to the ban rports, Landfall originated four separate remittances totaling $10 million to SHG on March 6, 2014. In addition, Landfall originated four separate remittances totaling more than $12 million to SHG on August 5, 2014.

Also, reportedly, Landfall and SHG conducted transactions totaling over $11.5 million with Best Metals Resources Company Limited. SHG received approximately $1.5 million dollars from Honors International Hong Kong Limited. SHG later received over $600,000 from Gold Spring Company Limited. The business profiles and identities of these counterparties could not be conclusively established from our sources.

Also, SHG received one hundred fifteen (115) remittances from Landfall totaling $350,092,639.89 and the transactions specifically occurred from October 30, 2013 through March 11, 2015.

Financial experts contacted said when several smaller payments are made to the same party within a short space of time, is usually a red-flag for anti-money laundering investigators. This behavior can suggest that the payments are made to evade triggering the scrutiny large once-off payments would receive from regulators. It is even worse when there is no commercial reason for the transactions such as when payments flow through a shell company that adds no value or is fictitious.

Hanlong Group founder and Chairman Liu Han, a Chinese mining tycoon and former government official, was put to death in February 2015 for offenses including murder and the operation of an organized crime ring described by Chinese authorities as a « mafia-style » organization.

The Chinese company, after some investigations, appears to be known as a sister company of Sichuan Hongda Company Limited, and signed a $3 billion deal with Tanzania to mine coal and iron ore in the resource-rich East African country. The contract was signed on September 22, 2011.

The contract involves construction of the Mchuchuma integrated coal mine, a 600-megawatt thermal power station and the Liganga iron ore mine in southern Tanzania.

The investment deal in East Africa provides that Sichuan Hongda will own 80 percent of the joint venture project, with the remaining stake held by Tanzania’s state-run National Development Corporation (NDC).

After 9 years, the investment has not taken off. This is mainly due to secretly conducted probe of government officials involved in the contract by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau.

Another company, Eagle Metal International Limited, which is identified in the public domain as an entity concerned with the manufacture and wholesale of mass consumption products, allegedly received one remittance from Singapore from Landfall totaling $13,551 on September 19, 2014.

Mercuria Energy Trading, a world-wide corporation with two offices in Singapore, which trades in physical energy products and dry bulk commodities, originated eighteen remittances to Landfall totaling $110,622,043 and those transactions occurred from January 21, 2014 through January 5, 2015. This company appears to have close financial relations with Trafigura.

Trafigura AG originated nine remittances to Landfall totaling $71,169,790.56 and those transactions occurred from October 24, 2013 through May 21, 2014, while Trafigura PTE originated thirteen remittances to Landfall totaling $36,578,932 and those transactions occurred from October 31, 2013 through March 13, 2015.

Ausinmet originated three remittances to Landfall totaling $21,172,374 and those transactions occurred from November 21, 2013 through December 9, 2013.

Best Metals originated four remittances to Landfall totaling $9,524,330 and those transactions from October 23, 2015 to January 11, 2016.

If Landfall Universe Limited was a genuine company, and the money channeled legitimately through its accounts in our banks, the government of Tanzania would have received a corporate tax of 30%. This adds up to more than USD 186,000,000 of the amount USD 620,347,859.

Most of the companies transacting with Landfall Universe Limited are also not listed and show no internet or public domain presence. It is only Trafigura which has a website which claims that it is a multinational commodity trading company founded in 1993 that trades in base metals and energy which is Headquartered in Singapore.

Emails sent to Trafigura to clarify its status and relationship with Landfill Universe Limited were answered with only- “no comments” from its spokesperson, Victoria Dix.

It came to light that Trafigura is present in Tanzania through its subsidiary, Impala Terminals Dar es Salaam, which is a multi-modal transport hub for trade to and from eastern and central Africa. It handles containers, trucks and rail wagons and also imported break bulk and project cargoes.

Reached by this reporter, an Impala official denied knowledge of Landfall Universe. “I have never come across with such a name in our business here, I started this company in Tanzania, we have never done any business with that Landfall,” he added, preferring to stay anonymous.

Government loses tax…

If Landfall Universe Limited was a genuine company, and the money channeled legitimately through its accounts in our banks, the government of Tanzania would have received a corporate tax of 30%. This adds up to more than USD 186,000,000 of the amount USD 620,347,859.

This amount could have been enough to build 100 modern dormitories which could accommodate more than 5,000 secondary school students – with full furniture, electricity and running water, and easing challenges of structures of the country’s education system.

Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Taxpayer Services and Education Director, Richard Kayombo said if that amount were to be paid to the government as obligatory tax, it could contribute immensely to the development of Tanzania.

Tanzania a high-risk jurisdiction?

Tanzania’s Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), has said if there are no traces of Landfall Universe Limited in all government companies registration offices, then it is obviously a briefcase entity which needs to be investigated.

PCCB said is aware of untrustworthy investors and citizens doing dubious business in the country and even working through briefcase companies, engaging in money laundering and suspicions transactions, but is doing all it can to prevent the situation.

The anti-graft body refuted Tanzania’s characterization as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering and corruption bestowed on the nation by foreign entities, citing progress to curb these evils.

PCCB claims that its sophisticated investigations have succeeded in netting more than Tanzania Shillings 190 billion of suspect money which it has in its custody. The body is currently finalizing legal procedures to nationalize the money and other illegally obtained property, including cars, buildings and land plots.

A respected counsel in Tanzania, Nyaronyo Kicheere , when reached to advise on ways to curb the spread of money laundering said that the best way to reduce the risk further would require a much wider and more coordinated effort among banks, payment networks, regulators and governments to strengthen security, especially among the weakest links in  financial infrastructure.

He said the other ting to curb financial illicit is for the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to do regular checks to all banks and other financial institutions to make sure that they strongly adheres to know your customers (KYC) procedures.

Financial records indicate that Landfall sent or received money from several other businesses.