The High Court of Malawi has dismissed an application by businesspersons Zuneth Sattar and Ashok Nair to stop the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from cooperating with a British government agency in an investigation against the duo.
In the application, the duo also sought permission for a judicial review on the basis that ACB as the first defendant has acted outside its mandate to offer assistance to the British government in obtaining evidence or information in Malawi in relation to their alleged offences.
Further, Sattar and Nair also sought judicial review for the alleged failure by the office of the Attorney General as second defendant to act on the matter as an appropriate authority under relevant laws governing collaboration between international and local investigating agencies.
Sattar and Nair also asked the court to grant them an injunction, without notice, against the ACB restraining them from cooperating with the investigating agency from UK government.
But delivering his judgement in Blantyre, Judge Mike Tembo said while he agreed that the Attorney General was the appropriate authority to handle the matter, there was no evidence to warrant granting the applicants their wish.
The judge said: “The presence of United Kingdom Government officers during the search and seizure herein is also not proved. There is no evidence to support that allegation. It is not clear how the claimant confirmed that fact in the absence of any evidence tending to show such confirmation.
“Even if it were granted that United Kingdom Government officers accompanied the first defendant’s officers at the time of the search and seizure, that in itself does not show that the first defendant intends or has decided at a future date to share information or evidence gathered during the search and seizure with the United Kingdom Government officers.”
In the application, the applicants enclosed a copy of a letter purportedly from Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda in response to their letter asking why his office was not involved, Tembo said the letter was ambiguous to be depended on.
He said: “This court thinks it’s prudent not to attach any weight to this ambiguous letter given that there is no evidence of any decision taken by the first defendant to share information with United Kingdom Government officials.”
The judge contended that the application was not worth investigating at a full hearing because it appeared to be “significantly based on speculation”.
This is a second application Sattar made to the court in connection with his investigation.
Last week, Sattar and Nair applied to the court for an injunction to stop Nation Publications Limited and Times Media Group from publishing stories on their investigations on the basis that doing so would jeopardise the probe as well as damage his personal and business reputation.
Tembo also dismissed the application, saying it was an infringement on press freedom and people’s right to know. The judge said the public interest in the reporting by the press on this matter outweighed the claimants’ personal interests they sought to protect through an injunction.
The duo is under investigation by ACB in collaboration with Britain’s National Crime Agency over the award of multi-million dollar public contracts to their firms.
Sattar is also being investigated in respect of the same allegations in the United Kingdom where he currently resides.
On November 1 2021, the ACB issued a restriction notice to Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Police Service of dealing with contracts awarded to some firms, including Xelite Stripes Limited, Xavier and Mallachite FZE linked to the claimants.