The High Court in Lilongwe yesterday granted government an order to seize assets amounting to K1.7 billion belonging to former president Peter Mutharika’s security aide Norman Chisale.
The move to seize assets of a suspect on such scale before trial or conviction is unprecedented in Malawi.
Previously, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has frozen assets of suspects mostly bank accounts but the order obtained by the State is far more sweeping.
The office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) through the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), ACB and Malawi Police Service (MPS) Fiscal and Fraud Department and other law enforcement agencies jointly applied for the court order which Justice Mike Tembo granted.
“Through their joint efforts and coordination strategy they have secured a preservation order for property worth 1.7 billion Malawi Kwacha in connection with Mr Chisale. Him alone accumulated all that property of which there is reasonable ground to believe that it is proceeds of a crime and is likely to be seized by government. Justice Mike Tembo has so ordered,” confirmed DPP Steven Kayuni.
However, Kayuni was tight-lipped on the specific assets which have been seized.
FIA legal services manager Dr Jean Philipo Priminta, chief State advocate Edwin Mtonga, FIA legal director Collins Chitsime and senior State advocate Pilirani Masanjala made submissions to court on behalf of the State.
Chisale, who is answering a number of criminal charges including abuse of office over his alleged role in the importation of cement using the President’s duty-free status, is accused by State agencies of acquiring billions worth of assets illegally.
Efforts to speak to Chisale’s lawyer Gilbert Khonyongwa proved futile yesterday.
According to a declaration of assets form Weekend Nation sourced last year from the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations, Chisale declared several properties across the country.
Among others, the form says the former head of security owns residential houses and motor vehicles.
On the other hand, a search on Chisale’s declaration forms does not provide a clear source of his income.
Further, the former president’s aide, who made donations of assets such as vehicles and a church building, declared that three of the luxury vehicles he owns were “gifts” from his friends in London, Dubai and Lilongwe.
In the forms, Chisale declared a Mercedes Benz with personalised registration NPC1 (initials standing for Norman Paulos Chisale) as “a gift from my friend in London Dhada Motors”. He also declared a Toyota Landcruiser VX as “a gift from my friend in Dubai” and a BMW X5 as a gift from a Mr. Kadango in Lilongwe.
The list also includes a Mercedes Benz registration NPC2 pegged at K8 million, a house in Kanjedza Township in Blantyre valued at K30 million which he said was a “a loan from Mr L. Fazeh”.
Chisale also declared to have sold a plot in Area 49, Lilongwe to former Cabinet minister Ben Phiri at K12 million.
On liabilities incurred, he indicated on the declaration forms “K200 000 000 FDH Bank account”, suggesting he might have borrowed the money from the bank.
But Chisale declared no business outside his work at State Residences.