The Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) has frozen bank accounts of some companies and individuals on suspicion that they were laundering and externalising millions in foreign currency.
It is estimated that about K1.6 billion ($2.2 million) was allegedly discovered in one company bank account whose owners were being monitored by the FIA for potential illegal activity.
The Nation has established that the matter has been going on in the High Court of Malawi and now in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal which has given the FIA a fresh mandate to continue freezing the accounts of the businesspersons of Asian descent.
The court document show that the companies aroused the FIA’s interest after a pattern of banking activity which circled around opening bank accounts, applying for huge volumes of foreign currency then abandoning the accounts after being requested to provide reconciliation on usage of the forex.
The court documents show that the FIA has been given a 90-day extension to continue freezing the accounts after the trio, named in the court documents as Muhamad Junaid trading as Jurk Enterprises and Karachi Enterprises; Muhamad Shezad Abdul trading as RNA Manufacturing and Muhamad Zubair Khan of AZ Enterprises.
The three, who say they run businesses dealing in importation of machinery and spare parts, appealed to the Supreme Court to challenge the freezing of their accounts, arguing the action was taken without authority granting them an opportunity to be heard.
But FIA lawyers point out that the suspicious activity took place between January and July 2017 although the trio argues that FIA’s
decision amounted to arbitrary deprivation of the right to pursue economic activities as they cannot access their bank accounts.
High Court Judge Judge N’riva agreed with FIA lawyers that there were enough grounds for the action and dismissed the application for a judicial review on the matter.
The development comes amid growing concern by government that the country’s foreign exchange was being externalised to foreign financial capitals by unscrupulous traders.