Malawi Government has managed to recover K86 million from the K24 billion looted public funds 17 months after revelations of massive theft in government, representing a pitiable 0.3 percent of the stolen money.
High Court spokesperson Mulenga Mvula said so far only K86million has been recovered from three convicts.
The three are former principal secretary of Tourism Tressa Senzani, who paid back K62 million and Maxwell Namata and Luke Kasamba who collectively paid back K24 million.
In an effort to maximise the funds recovering efforts, other quarters suggested the use of plea bargains, but the country is yet to set guidelines to regulate bargaining.
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor.
Explained Mvula: “The challenge is it might take time to have the plea bargain [rules] in place; it has to be factored into the country’s laws. This means all stakeholders, Malawi Law Society, Malawi Law Commission have to be involved, this might take time,” he said.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya said in an interview Treasury would only know how much Cashgate money was collected and ploughed back into the government system after the auditors have audited government accounts at the end of the year.
“The money has been deposited in the deposit accounts of government at commercial bank or Reserve Bank of Malawi against which general receipts were issued. This money will only be accessible at the end of the year.
“There are two sets of money, the bail bonds and those that have been recovered from those convicted of Cashgate,” he said.
Some of notable huge bail bonds from Cashgate cases include that of businessperson Oswald Lutepo at K55 million and former budget director Paul Mphwiyo at K18 million.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale told the media recently that government will recover “most” of the money that was stolen through Cashgate through the Forfeiture Act that is highlighted in the Corruption Act.
Kaphale said the recovery of the money will depend on the outcome of the trials.
“We have enough laws that will help us to recover the money. We have set ourselves target of the amount that we are going to recover,” he said.
But money laundering expert Jai Banda cast ‘serious’ doubts on the recovery of the money, saying there was no evidence that the said money was in anyway invested in property or banked.
“The money was stolen within a very short period of time and it would be impossible to invest that huge amount of money in such a short period of time. However, the Money Laundering Act makes provisions for getting back any money which has been lost through money laundering,” he said.
Banda said Section 63 of the Money Laundering Act empowers government to confiscate any property that is deemed to have been acquired using stolen money, adding that Malawi Government could have made an application to High Court to freeze properties of the people ‘with reasonable suspicion’ to have benefitted from Cashgate.
Financial Intelligence Unit spokesperson Masautso Ebere said FIU’s mandate does not extend to following cash withdrawals.
“The Malawi FIU is mandated to receive, request and analyse financial information which it receives from financial institutions that include banks.
Senior public relations officer for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Egrita Ndala said the bureau could not discuss the findings of its investigations as doing so may jeopardise the process.