The State says the valuation of property seized from former president Peter Mutharika’s security aide, Norman Chisale, has jumped from the initial K1.7 billion to K3 billion.
Ministry of Justice chief State advocate Jean Priminta disclosed this yesterday when the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court in Blantyre commenced hearing an application by Chisale on the reposession of his assets in February.
Chisale is seeking an interpretation on whether it was proper for Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni to commence the civil proceedings under the Financial Crimes Act.
Priminta told the three-judge panel comprising Dingiswayo Madise, Kenani Manda and Anneline Kanthambi that the amount has gone up following further valuation of the seized properties.
She said: “We have now valuated that the assets are now estimated at K3 billion.”
On his part, Kayuni said the value of Chisale’s assets could reach K5 billion because the State is still valuating the remaining property.
The State has a team of nine lawyers while Chisale is represented by private practice lawyer Chancy Gondwe.
Gondwe argued that the case was a civil proceeding and that the law does not allow the DPP to handle the case.
Chisale is also seeking an interpretation on whether the Civil Preservation Order, which gave government powers to seize his property, infringed his rights to own property.
Gondwe told the court: “Now we are looking into the context under which those rights are being limited under the Financial Crimes Act because one can just wake up, and come up with a preservation order without being heard.
“This is a new piece of legislation and it has to be relooked at if at all the provisions are consistent with the Constitution.”
In his response, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda argued that the Financial Crimes Act lists a number of institutions, including the DPP, to issue a preservation order.
He argued: “So the argument that the DPP doesn’t have powers to issue a preservation order is not correct. The court should look at the law as it is and not to make or amend the law.”
On whether the State’s action infringed Chisale’s rights to own property, Nyirenda said Chisale’s assets were questionable as he was earning a monthly salary of not more than K500 000.
He said: “When we talk about the right to own property, we are not talking about the illegitimate property. We are talking about the right to acquire property that has been legitimately earned.”
The court has adjourned the matter to a date to be communicated later when it will deliver its ruling.
In February this year, the office of the DPP through the Assets Forfeiture Unit, the Financial Intelligence Authority, Anti- Corruption Bureau and Malawi Police Service Fiscal and Fraud Department and other law enforcement agencies applied for the seizure order.
Chisale is accused by State agencies of acquiring billions of kwacha worth of assets illegally.
The seized properties comprise 86 motor vehicles and 21 real estate properties, including residential houses and commercial buildings