Government, with support from development partners, is set to launch a special unit that will be responsible for confiscating wealth proven to have originated from proceeds of crime, primarily Cashgate.
European Union (EU) head of politics, press and information office James Dolan confirmed to Nation on Sunday in a response to an e-mail questionnaire that the EU, alongside other development partners, are working with the Ministry of Justice on the project.
“The EU is also about to provide technical support to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in helping to acquire skills to investigate and prosecute cases of money laundering as well as to undertake asset forfeiture at the conclusion of cases. We will also, working with and under the direction and supervision of the DPP, provide technical expertise in setting up an Asset Forfeiture Unit in the office.
“The EU, along with other partners, is providing technical assistance to strengthen public finance management systems, which is an important pre-requisite to reducing corruption,” said Dolan.
But Dolan on Friday said he could not provide more details on the matter, including on other development partners involved in the project as the agreement was just being finalised.
The special unit will facilitate the State’s wish to recover all assets originating from proceeds of various financial crimes, including, but not restricted to Cashgate.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Chris Chisoni welcomed the development on Friday, saying it will go a long way in ensuring protection of national resources.
“We have always been looking at issues from the Judiciary perspective. We are saying those who took away the resources should return them to government and such a unit can help facilitate that.
“This adds an important aspect. So far, you have to understand that the public mood is just focusing on seeing punishment through the arrests and sentencing of those arrested. However, what this proposed office gives us is an opportunity to ensure justice beyond that. To ensure that the national wealth which was plundered is recovered,” said Chisoni.
However, Chisoni cautioned that such a unit should be backed by a strong legal framework to ensure that the recovered assets and resources are not abused again.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) honorary secretary Khumbo Soko said while the idea was interesting, the society would await details of the proposed operations and legislation of the unit before making comment.
“We need to know how this will operate before rushing to say off the head whether this is good or not,” said Soko.
Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Apoche Itimu was yet to respond to a questionnaire on the matter while Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice Janet Banda could not be reached by press time.
Currently, while there is no specific office mandated to fulfil the task, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the DPP can apply to courts after successful completion of court cases.
The development comes as the State continues to register success in the prosecution of Cashgate cases, the latest being last week’s jailing to 11 years of Oswald Lutepo who was said to have pocketed K4.7 billion of Cashgate money by the Baker Tilly forensic audit.
As of April this year, government had so far recovered a paltry K220 million in six cases where authorities sought convictions in the K24 billion plunder whereas Lutepo’s conviction saw the restitution of his Woget Industries worth K370 million.
Of the 15 active cases from a list of 69, government envisages only recovering K7.2 billion.