The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it learnt about United Kingdom-based businessperson Zuneth Sattar’s recent visit to Malawi two hours after he left, thereby making it difficult for them to act.
In an interview yesterday in Lilongwe, ACB director general Martha Chizuma said the graft-busting agency had learnt belatedly about his visit.
She said: “By the time we became aware of Zuneth Sattar’s presence in Malawi it was practically impossible for the bureau to do anything.”
Sattar, whose businesses have procurement contracts with various Malawi Government ministries, departments and agencies, is under investigation in the UK by the National Crimes Agency (NCA) for allegedly giving bribes to politically-exposed persons in Malawi to benefit from contracts.
During yesterday’s interview, Chizuma refused to take further questions, saying the UK authorities were better placed to provide more information.
In an e-mail response to our questionnaire sent on Wednesday, the NCA Press Office confirmed that Sattar’s case was heard at the Uxbridge Magistrate Court in the UK, but they could not provide more details because investigations were in progress.
Reads the response: “We are very limited in terms of what we can offer as this is an ongoing investigation.”
The NCA indicated that Sattar applied to the court to vary his bail conditions to allow him to travel, but the court refused to grant his wish.
Further, NCA is said to have told the court that Sattar, who is on bail in the UK, had travelled to Malawi and that the agency feared he could have potentially tampered with ongoing investigations.
An ACB source earlier confided that the bureau felt betrayed by the fact that Sattar was allowed into the country without any alert.
Said the source: “Everyone knows this is a person of our interest, as such, we needed to be informed about his presence. We have huge interest in him and his visit could potentially affect our investigations.”
But in an interview earlier yesterday, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said while he was not aware about Sattar’s recent visit to Malawi, it would be “legally naive” to arrest him when he was already arrested in the UK.
He said: “If the ACB knew about his visit, I suspect they may not have arrested him because he was already arrested by UK authorities. He has an on-going case under the UK jurisdiction and, therefore, the Malawian authority may not commence the same proceedings against the same person.”
On whether it was not in the interest of Malawian authorities to alert the ACB or bar Sattar from entering Malawi on the basis that he could tamper with investigation, Nyirenda said ACB and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services were better placed to answer the question.
Immigration Department spokesperson Wellington Chiponde said he needed more time to check all ports of entry before making a confirmation on how Sattar got into the country.
In December, the ACB arrested Sattar’s business associate Ashok Nair and former minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa for alleged corruption and fraud.