The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says Cashgate suspects issuing it with threats are cowards and enemies of the State and that staff will not be cowed.
In an interview, ACB deputy director Reyneck Matemba said: “I am aware that some of the accused persons—and I know their names—have persistently approached several high ranking government officials to beg and persuade them to intervene and stop us from proceeding with these cases, especially the Novatech case, but all their efforts have been in vain. That is why they have resorted to issuing threats against us.”
The threats are in connection with the 2011 theft case of K201 million in public funds involving 14 people.
A copy of an email Weekend Nation has seen alleges that this is a sensitive case and that some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and State House officials know how some of the proceeds of the K201 million were used.
Reads the email in part: “The State vs Kaphantengo case and others your office is handling has more to it than meets the eye. You just need to be careful as I am sure you know you are under surveillance (if you have got friends in the intelligence community they can confirm this).”
It further alleges that ACB and all “stakeholders” agreed to conclude the former president Joyce Banda era Cashgate cases first before tackling others.
Reads the email: “[But before doing that] you pick this sensitive case and bring it to newspapers. Courts were on recess and you still went ahead and booked a special judge and journalists to start prosecuting the case as if it were any special when you knew the sensitive details of the case.”
But Matemba insists that they are not moved by the threats.
“For your information, we believe we have the necessary support and commitment from government to fight corruption in this country,” he said.
Matemba said President Peter Mutharika has on several occasions assured the bureau of his support, that there will be no sacred cows, and he has encouraged the staff to prosecute any person who took part in the plunder of government finances.
On allegations that the case is sensitive because some people benefited from the looting, Matemba said he had heard the allegations but the evidence they have tells a different story.
Said Matemba: “Evidence ACB has which we disclosed to the court and to all the accused persons is that the accused persons among themselves connived to steal and indeed stole millions from government.
“Apart from the evidence we have on record, if we consider the type, value and amount of assets that these people accumulated within that short period of time, as well as the lifestyles they used to live, and compare that to their known sources of income, it is very clear they were the ultimate beneficiaries.”
ACB director Lucas Kondowe yesterday said he is aware of the threats, especially in relation to the K201 million case.
He said since the brutal murder of ACB director of corporate affairs Issa Njauju under mysterious circumstances in July in Lilongwe, government has intensified security for all officers handling Cashgate cases.
“The bureau has enough evidence to prosecute the matter without fear or favour,” said Kondowe.
There are 14 accused persons who the ACB wants to prove were involved in the theft and money laundering of K201 million from the Ministry of Elderly and Disability through the Accountant General’s Office.
All pleaded not guilty to the three counts of theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a felony when they took their pleas in the High Court in Lilongwe on November 4 this year.
According to the charge sheet compiled by ACB, the alleged looting, which took place between November 2010 and June 2011, centred around the Ministry of Disability and Elderly through the Accountant General’s office.
Cornelius Kaphantengo and his wife, Yvonne, who was a partner in Nova Technology and General Dealers, were among those who pleaded not guilty to three counts each of conspiracy to commit a felony, theft and money laundering.
Their co-accused are Chikondi Chimutu, whose theft charge involves K18.3 million, Deusdedit Tenthani (K16.2 million), Tendai Nayeja (K27.1 million), Audney Kamitengeni (K9.9 million), Conrad Nambala (K38.4 million), Squire Chakwana (K10.7 million), Jimmy Mbuliro (K3 million), Wides Machika (K5 million), Tapiwa Ng’oma (K9.1 million), Khumbo Banda (K2.7 million) and Justina Nyirenda who was charged with abuse of public office as she was an accounts assistant in the AG’s office..
The group is alleged to have Nova Technology, Jecc, Jipone and XLG Investments for defrauding government.
Last week, three State witnesses told the High Court in Lilongwe that they never dealt with the companies.
First witness Desiderata Makuwira Salaniponi, who at the time of the scandal was working at the ministry, said at no time did any of the four companies supply goods to the ministry.
The second witness Medina Chitedze, a stores clerk at the ministry, also told the court that she had never heard any of the companies until ACB investigators had mentioned them to her.
The third witness, Leonard Kumwenda, an officer at the Office of Director of Public Procurement (ODPP), told the court the companies have never been registered at the procurement office, and have at no point dealt with government.
The court has adjourned the matter to the first week of February 2016.
The shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013 led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Former president Joyce Banda ordered an audit which British forensic auditor Baker Tilly undertook. It established that between April and September 2013 about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May this year, a financial and audit advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciled between 2009 and December 2014. n