Over K500 million is feared to have vanished from the country through externalisation of foreign currency allegedly by one of the employees of Bakhresa Grain Milling Limited in Limbe, Blantyre.
The suspected fraud has stumbled on the fiscal police path, who have since launched a manhunt for the alleged director, a Kenyan national, currently at large.
This is coming against the background that the country is losing nearly K500 billion annually through such illegal fiscal transactions, according to the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), in the face of economic challenges.
This, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), represents nearly16 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually due to illicit financial flows.
Blantyre Police Station spokesperson Elizabeth Divala confirmed in an interview yesterday that fiscal police had been investigating four Bakhresa employees, including the Kenyan, Adlsham Idah, for money laundering and illegal externalisation of foreign currency.
“In the course of investigating the employees, all of whom are foreign nationals, it was discovered that Adlsham Idah was the linchpin of the fraud. It is estimated that individually he illegally transferred to his country over K500 million,” she explained.
According to Divala, between 2015 and 2016, the Kenyan had allegedly been purchasing the foreign currency in bits and keeping it at his residence before unlawfully taking it to his country.
Meanwhile, Idah is reportedly at large after he allegedly got wind of his impending arrest some two weeks ago.
Divala explained that between February 11 and 18 2017, the Kenyan just dropped his office keys at the company’s premises in Limbe and has not been seen since then.
But some senior managers from Bakhresa, who drove to The Nation newsroom last evening claimed Idah resigned three weeks ago and went back home to attend to family matters.
“The fact is he tendered his resignation three weeks ago, saying he wanted to attend to family matters at his home. But we were not aware that he was under investigations by Fiscal Police together with other directors. As a company, Bakhresa is not being investigated,” said the senior manager who declined to provide his name.
Director of Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) Atuweni Juwayeyi-Agbermodji said she had no information on the matter, but generally Fiscal Police request for information that they require from her office.
“But it’s not always expected that they will come to us. Sometimes when they are investigating themselves they have all the intelligence needed so for now I cannot say whether they have asked for any information or not because I am not the one who directly deals with that,” she said.
In 2015, fiscal agencies also investigated some 14 companies—mostly owned by businesspersons of Asian origin—suspected of illegally externalising around K10 billion from the country.
In a recent interview with The Nation, Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa said the country lacks capacity to curtail illicit financial outflows due to, among others, lack of accurate data and ineffective legislative, regulatory and institutional frameworks of redress.
Last year, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and the FIA said they were investigating 22 corporate accounts in two banks in connection with the illicit externalisation of about $16.9 million through alleged fake invoices and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) import documents between 2014 and 2015.