- Stiffer punishment won’t deter others—lawyer
The sentencing to 11 years imprisonment of the main cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo has prompted the need to review the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorist Financing Act and some provisions in the Penal Code.
The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament is expected to meet soon to among others, review the law.
In an interview, the committee’s chairperson, Peter Chakhwantha, said the review has been necessitated by the recent sentencing of Lutepo.
Last Friday, Judge Redson Kapindu of the High Court in Zomba sentenced Lutepo to 11 years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering K4.2 billion.
While delivering his ruling, Kapindu wondered why the maximum sentence for money laundering was pitched at ten years imprisonment which he described as “so low”.
He said the maximum sentence under the MLA is strange considering the possibilities of very serious crimes that may be committed contrary to the Act.
Said Kapindu: “Today we are dealing with unprecedented amounts of money laundered. Tomorrow we might be confronted with a very bad and appalling case of terrorist financing.
“The law makers should seriously reflect on whether the punishments we have on the statute book are sufficient to address the mischief intended to be cured by the legislature through the Money Laundering,
Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.”
And Chakhwantha concurred with Kapindu, observing that framers of the Act may not have envisaged that offences under the legislation might assume huge proportions as witnessed in Lutepo’s case.
“As a committee, we totally agree with the Judge’s observation and it is incumbent upon us to quickly review the Act. I have already instructed the Clerk of Parliament to write a memo to the Speaker so that we meet and review the Act and other provisions in the penal code,” he disclosed.
Chakhwantha said the review is being treated as a matter of urgency, and the committee will meet “as soon as funds are made available.”
“I hope that we expedite the review process so that the revised law affects matters still in court. We really need to review the Act so that actors in this unprecedented swindling of government money are punished accordingly,” he said.
Earlier, national secretary for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCCJP), Chris Chisoni, said if the nation felt the penalties were not deterrent enough, there would be need to review the law to reflect the present situation.
But political analyst Boniface Dulani had a different opinion.
“We should avoid a situation where we overreact and begin changing laws because of a single episode, even for a serious one such as Cashgate.
“I should add that given the condition of Malawian prisons, a total of 11 years behind bars is an eternity,” cautioned Dulani.
Meanwhile, money laundering expert Jai Banda has said stiffer punishments do not necessarily deter people from committing crimes.
“If the general feeling is that the sentences are not adequate then there would be need to review the Act but what people should know is that it does not necessarily mean harsher sentences will deter people
from committing crimes,” he said.
Banda, who previously represented Lutepo in the case said he was not surprised that his former client Lutepo has been given the maximum sentence “as he was regarded as the chief cashgater”.