Former president Peter Mutharika’s head of security Norman Chisale spent last night in police cell after hours of police questioning over an undisclosed matter.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera in an interview on Tuesday confirmed Chisale’s arrest but could not provide more details.
He said: “We can confirm that he is in our custody in Lilongwe. It’s premature for me to comment on the charges or any details because doing so may jeopardise investigations. When investigations are ripe, we will inform the public.”
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba on Tuesday said the bureau will start preliminary investigations in the matter.
He said: “We cannot say we have started an investigation but opened a preliminary investigation into what happened and whether there is anything that warrants a full investigation.”
On Friday last week law enforcers also arrested former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner Roza Mbilizi in connection with cement worth K3.2 billion Mutharika imported duty-free.
The initially reported import of 40 000 MT of cement by the former president from Zimbabwe and Zambia raised question marks over the integrity of the Presidential Benefits and Privileges Act and also Mutharika’s commitment to the Buy Malawian Campaign he personally launched in 2016 and has touted as a remedy to local industry growth.
Private practice lawyer John Gift Mwakhwawa questioned whether such volumes of cement importation could be construed as for personal use and asked for a probe into the procurement.
“Duty free status is for personal use but these amounts bring in suspicion that this cannot be personal use but perhaps for business. Even the personal use envisioned by the law does not include supporting business, the law might be prone to abuse and this needs to be reviewed as it could be bordering on abusing the law,” he said.
However, Mutharika’s appetite for foreign cement further raised questions over misuse of the country’s thin foreign currency reserves.
According to correspondence we sourced, in June 2018, former State Residences director general Peter Mukhito wrote a letter addressed to MRA commissioner general to clear 20 000 MT cement purchased from Chipata, Zambia.
In the letter, Mutharika requests duty clearance for the cement from a company called Prestige Export.
A letter in response to State House communication dated November 21 2018 signed by deputy commissioner of technical customs and excise Abigail Kamwamba advises that MRA extended ports where the cement should be allowed into the country from previously Lilongwe Port to Dedza and Mchinji.
“We write to acknowledge receipt of the letter dated 21st November 2018 requesting duty free clearance of the above-mentioned goods. We write to convey the Commissioner General’s approval to clear 20 000MT cement from Zimbabwe duty-free in terms of Customs Procedures Code 418 of the Customs and Exercise (Tariffs) Order,” reads part of the letter.
Former MRA commissioner general Thom Malata previously refused to comment on the matter, referring The Nation to head of corporate affairs Steven Kapoloma.
“The authority is obliged to respect the taxpayer’s right to confidentiality by not disclosing individual tax affairs to third parties or the public. Without commenting on this specific issue, kindly take note that under Customs Procedure Code 418 of the Customs and Excise Tariff, the President is allowed to import goods duty free,” Kapoloma responded.
While Kadadzera said the Fiscal and Fraud Section was yet to furnish him with details of Mbilizi’s arrest, police sources disclosed that Mbilizi was arrested in connection to the cement Mutharika imported between 2018 and 2019 duty-free from Zambia and Zimbabwe. Chisale’s wife Evalista, who was acting commissioner of police for the Central Region, was also arrested in relation to the death of Buleya Lule, who dies in police custody.
Evalitsa was arrested alongside 12 other police officers after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale directed that all officers implicated in the death of Lule be prosecuted.
On Monday, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court charged the 13 with murder, and the case was committed to the High Court for full trial.
Lule, 44, a suspect who allegedly offered to ‘buy’ a 14-year-old boy with albinism for K800 000, died in Lilongwe in police custody in February 2019 after he appeared in court at the height of speculations that senior government officials during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration were involved in the killing of people with albinism.