Two commercial banks—Nedbank (Malawi) Limited and Standard Bank Limited—have stepped in to pay K3 million in fines for 10 of the 25 trucks impounded for carrying smuggled supplies of round wood through Songwe Border Post in Karonga.
The trucks were impounded in July last year.
On February 19 this year, Nedbank issued a K1.2 million cheque for the Director of Forestry to release four trucks belonging to hauliers Chisendenji Trading and Sammy’s Transport impounded for illegally transporting logs of the endangered Mkula trees.
“Take note that the bank is only paying for four of the trucks it holds title to as evidenced by the attached copies of motor vehicle registration certificates,” reads a letter signed by Nedbank (Malawi) Limited head of credit management Sankhani Chilembwe.
Similarly, Standard Bank Limited drew a K1.8 million cheque to settle fines for the redemption of six trucks.
“Please find attached a bank cheque for K1.8 million in favour of your office being payment of a fine imposed on trucks of Chisendenji Trading which carried illegal items [logs],” Standard Bank team leader for specialised recoveries Richard Kandonje wrote the Director of Forestry.
On Saturday, The Nation saw workers offloading the hardwood logs from the containers at Karonga District Forestry office.
In an interview, district forestry officer Gracewell Mbale said the banks’ intervention marks the beginning of the final settlement of the case which dates back to July 3 2015 when security officers at Songwe Border intercepted the trucks hauling the illicit cargo to the coastal port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
The High Court convicted businessperson Yona Mtanga for possession and trafficking of illegal forest produce.
Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Apoche Itimu said there were several cases involving smuggling of the outlawed wood.
During hearing of the case, Mtanga tendered papers purporting the forest cargo had been sourced from Zambia.
However, government’s follow-up with Zambia’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Environmental Protection, Barnaby Mulenga, on July 22 revealed Lusaka had issued no licence for the logs that were captured in transit.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri described the ending as victory over an organised ring that has left the country’s forest to massive deforestation.
So far, 12 trucks have been redeemed.