The High Court in Lilongwe on Monday convicted civil servant James Bandula Chirwa on charges relating to the plunder of government funds at Capital Hill between April and September 2013 widely known as Cashgate.
Chirwa was convicted on his own plea of guilty to charges of theft and conspiracy to defraud the government of K513 million, but also money laundering which attracts a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
He was alleged to be the mastermind of the conspiracy involving several other contractors, among them Muzipasi Moyo of Ziuya Construction, Steven Mwenitete of Sky Civil Engineering and Denis Mhango of Clive Engineering.
However, Moyo, Mwenitete and Mhango have pleaded not guilty to charges of lending a certificate for personation contrary to Section 392 of the Penal Code and money laundering.
Chirwa confirmed to the court that he was in Lilongwe between April and September 2013 when he conspired with his fellow accused persons to defraud the government of Malawi on cheques payable to the companies as bogus suppliers of goods and services to the government.
When presiding judge Ivy Kamanga asked if he presented the money to the companies on the pretext that goods were supplied to the government, Chirwa responded in the affirmative.
“Were any services carried out or goods supplied when the money was paid to the businesses belonging to the accused persons?” Kamanga asked, to which Chirwa responded no.
He remained unmoved and unemotional throughout the judge’s questioning, but was requested several times to raise his voice when taking his plea so that the judge could record accurately.
Chirwa also pleaded guilty to the charge of theft, confirming that he indeed fraudulently converted to his own and use of other accused persons K513 million from the government.
To his own company, Chirwa transferred K131 million, to Mwenitete’s Sky Civil Engineering, he paid out three cheques totalling K61.2 million and to Clive Engineering Chirwa paid out three cheques totalling K123 million.
He also pleaded guilty to facilitating theft of K34 million paid out to Mike Mbwana of MIC Civil Engineering, K56 million drawn on four cheques to Philbert Mkandawire of Mahembe Civil Engineering, K39 million to Mweni Civil Engineering of Albert Mwenibabo, K30 million to Steward Nkhata of Stewarts Construction and K36.4 million to Yohane Kaweche of Mundikhumbengi Building Construction.
On the count of money laundering, Chirwa pleaded guilty to money laundering K131 million on three cheques while the remaining amount was shared between Mwenitete, Mbwana, Mkandawire, Mwenibabo, Nkhata and Kaweche.