Blantyre senior resident magistrate Akya Mwanyongo yesterday granted bail to five Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons (DWS) officials arrested over the weekend for alleged K10.8 billion tax evasion.
The five are director Faizal Gaffar Latif , managing director Muhammed Gaffar, financi a l control l e r Abdul Rashid Bakali, procurement manager Yaseen Muhammad and general manager Martin Mpata.
Delivering the bail ruling , Mwanyongo ordered the accused persons to each pay bail bonds of K10 million cash and K50 million non-cash sureties.
He further ordered them to surrender their travel documents and report to Malawi Revenue Authority ( MRA ) commissioner general fortnightly on Mondays.
But after delivering the ruling, one of the lawyers representing the five, Frank Mbeta, asked the court to reduce the K10 million cash bail bond to K2 million, arguing the amount was on the higher side.
He said: “We engaged the State to consider reducing the K10 million cash payment to K2 million, but we did not make headway.”
After hearing arguments from the two sides, Mwanyongo granted the defence’s request and reduced the cash bond to K2 million.
Earlier, Mwanyongo transferred the tax evasion case to chief resident magistrate (South) Jean Kayira where the suspects were formally charged with 15 counts bordering on tax evasion.
Among the charges were interfering with goods under customs control, smuggling goods, uttering false documents and conspiracy to commit a customs offence.
Said Kayira while reading the charge sheet: “Faizal Gaffar Latif and Mohamed Gaffar, being director and managing director of Mapeto
[DWSM] Limited respectively, on a day and place unknown between 2016 and 2021, conspired together with Yaseen Muhammad being the procurement manager, Martin Mpata being the general manager; Devchad Purohit being the assistant accountant; Abdul Rashid Bakali, being the financial controller, all of Mapeto [DWSM] Limited as well as with Tsepiso Kaunda and George Mwaluka , both being MRA customs officers, to evade payment of customs duties by importing ready-made and ready-for-consumption fabrics and twine, disguised as duty-free raw materials under industrial rebate, thereby defrauding the Malawi Government of revenue amounting to K1 980 685 404.87.” [DWSM] Limited respectively,
She then adjourned the case to June 3 2021.
But after hearing all the charges, the seven suspects, who appeared before the court via Zoom, pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Lawyer representing MRA, Beatrice Mwangwela told the court that the sixth accused person, Purohit, who is Mapeto DWSM Limited assistant accountant, is at large while Kaunda and Mwaluka were released on police bail after being questioned.
She also told the court that Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steve Kayuni and two Financial Intellience Authority lawyers will join the State in the case.
In an interview after the court session, Mwangwela said the DPP has shown interest in the case due to its magnitude.