The Anti-Corruption Bureau(ACB) says it is investigating 71 cases of suspected fraud and corruption with a collective monetary value of K1.2 trillion all reported since the change of government in June this year.
ACB director Reyneck Matemba made the revelations in a media briefing aimed at updating the nation on the status in the fight against corruption in the country. Lilongwe yesterday during
Flanked by senior bureau officials, he said the graft-busting body has about 30 cases in court from both current cases and outstanding ones and highlighted progress on several investigations.
Matemba said the K1.2 trillion at stake, while derived from total sums of money in the cases under investigation, does not imply that the whole amount was stolen from Treasury.
He also said that like in Cashgate—the plunder of resources at Capital Hill
exposed in September 2013 where goods or services were not delivered and invoices inflated—some cases involved overpricing and kickbacks with goods and service delivered.
Matemba said the ACB, despite not being the lead agency in the investigation and prosecution of the recent alleged cement import scam, had frozen a State Residences bank account in addition to the accounts of the former president Peter Mutharika, former first lady Gertrude Mutharika, a joint account in the name of the former president and former first lady, an account for former
State Residences director general Peter Mukhito and another belonging to Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi.
The ACB chief said the frozen State Residences bank account would remain indefinitely closed until completion of investigations.
He said some of the officials, whose personal accounts were frozen, recently asked the graft-busting body to unfreeze the accounts, but the bureau rejected the requests.
Said Matemba: “Some of the issues coming out of the saga are related to
fraud and the Fiscal Police Department, due to their expertise in forensics, is better-placed to conduct such investigations.
“We a r e j o i n t l y c o n d u c t i n g t h e investigation, but we have segregated specific roles depending on our different mandates and it is because of such mandate that we are freezing those accounts.
“We [ACB] are more interested in the public servants; we are looking at the use of the TPIN [taxpayer identification number] and the public servants who were involved; the police are looking at the other issues.”
On the police food rations case involving businessperson Zameer Karim, he said the court will soon start hearing the matter and that the bureau
will give an update by the end of the month.
He attributed the delay to prosecute the Karim case to contractual technicalities with a private prosecutor the bureau had hired to handle the case. He said the outstanding contractual issues have since been cleared.
Matemba also justified the bureau’s decision not to prosecute Mutharika in relation to the Karim matter following an earlier recommendation from the bureau’s investigators. Upon getting payment for the police food rations
million in a Democratic Progressive Party bank account at Standard Bank whose sole signatory was Mutharika. deal, Karim deposited K145
He said the ACB legal and prosecution department as well as an independent veteran prosecutor concluded upon review of the evidence that Mutharika had no case to answer.
Matemba also dismissed assertions that the bureau gives special treatment to rich Malawians of Asian descent who are arrested for various cases.
Following the change of government through the court-ordered Fresh Presidential Election held on June 23, Matemba said he discussed with Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe to review the case in the wake of continued public outcry on the decision to let the former president off the hook.
He also reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) denied ACB permission to prosecute one of the suspects in the Karim case, Misheck Esau who was chief executive officer for CDH Investment Bank.
Matemba also rejected suggestions that the bureau was failing to prosecute some corruption cases, citing the police food rations case, the cement imports case and the alleged judge bribery case involving business mogul Thomson Mpinganjira.
He said the Mpinganjira case delayed due to attempts by the businessperson’s lawyers to push through in court a judicial review before the case started.
Other cases still in court include that of former president Bakili Muluzi which has dragged for over a decade and half, the various remaining Cashgate cases, including prosecution of former Malawi Defence Force Commander Henry Odillo (retired) and others, the recent case of former Escom CEO John Kandulu and former Escom board chairperson Jean Mathanga.
The ACB u p d a t e comes amid public outcry over perceived delays in prosecuting corruption cases.
Last week, the Malawi Police Service also indicated that investigations into at least 20 fraud-related cases were concluded and the matters were awaiting prosecution