Cashgate cases under prosecution in the courts will continue to enjoy the maximum 11-year sentence, which some quarters have described as lenient, if Cabinet does not move quickly to review the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorists Financing Act.
Chairperson of Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Maxwell Thyolera observed that despite spending a lot of money on law reviews, the process stalls at Cabinet level.
His comments come in the wake of a report the committee recently presented to the Law Commission on the revisions of the Act.
Thyolera said the Malawi Law Commission (MLC) is expected to conduct a comparative analysis with neighbouring countries before it suggests a new maximum sentence. However, he was worried that the process would stall at Cabinet level.
“There are plenty of reports that have stalled at Cabinet level. For example, the Witchcraft Act, which is associated with albino killings, has been stuck at Cabinet level. Cabinet should expedite reviews,” he said.
Thyolera also said a national conference on constitutional reviews held in 2007 suggested a number of reviews which are stuck at Cabinet level.
He said if the process of revisiting the law is expedited, it may be applied to Cashgate matters which are still in court.
Said Thyolera: “The maximum sentence is too little if we compare with the huge proportions of money stolen by Cashgate suspects. The seriousness of a crime requires a serious sentence.”
He said Cabinet has a constitutional mandate to look at the proposed bills before they are presented to Parliament for deliberations.
But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu yesterday said recommendations made during the 2007 conference are being implemented, adding that only the electoral laws are being reconsidered by Law Commission.
“It is not true that we are delaying implementation of laws. During the last sitting of Parliament, 23 bills were presented. It has never happened in the history of the country,” he said.
Tembenu also said MLC is working on the Witchcraft Act and Cabinet is waiting for a report on the same.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John Suzi Banda said it would be difficult to conclude that draft Bills are taking long at Cabinet level as there are a lot of things that happen.
He said: “It is a long process. There is need to consult a legal expert, for example, to see how the law should be structured and there may be need for further consultations with relevant authorities.”
Suzi-Banda also said sometimes Cabinet sends back proposed bills to line ministries if they are not satisfied with some areas.
Main Cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud government and laundering K4.2 billion.