Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is still waiting for key information from authorities in Jersey, Europe, that may help to unearth suspected fraud transactions by former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika through a bank account he opened there.
The investigations, which former president Joyce Banda’s administration launched towards the May 2014 Tripartite Elections, also mentioned President Peter Mutharika, a presidential candidate then, as allegedly being linked to the fraud probe.
Also mentioned in the suspected fraud are Bingu’s children, son Madalitso, daughters Duwa and Tapiwa.
Malawi authorities asked for the information through Attorney General’s (AG) office in Jersey, an Island, which is ruled by the Duke of Normandy—a title held by the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom, though unrelated to those duties as king or queen of the UK, according to information on the Internet.
But as sitting president, President Mutharika enjoys immunity from any investigation and prosecution.
ACB in a response to a questionnaire said under the Constitution, immunity from prosecution is only for a sitting president and not for members of his family, meaning the bureau may proceed with the investigations limited to Bingu’s children.
But the bureau’s spokesperson Egrita Ndala said they have not yet received any information from Jersey regarding the foreign bank accounts and property of Bingu.
The response reads: “The bureau is still waiting for the information so that it can proceed as appropriate. The bureau was looking for information on the bank [account] and property.”
Alec Le Sueur, practice manager and director of administration, who is also a media contact for Law Officers’ Department in Jersey, said in a response to a questionnaire he could not provide answers to questions Nation On Sunday raised on the fraud probe.
Le Sueur, responding on behalf of a senior legal adviser Andrew Belhomme, an officer in the AG’s office who in a letter dated May 14 2014, asked Standard Bank Jersey Limited to disclose information relating to the people under investigation in the name of Bingu wa Mutharika, his son Madalitso, daughters Tapiwa and Duwa and his brother, Peter, said he was sorry to disappoint that no answers could be provided.
Le Sueur wrote: “I am sorry to disappoint you with this response but as you will be aware, any approaches for legal assistance from foreign governments are received in confidence, and equally, our replies are given in confidence to the government requesting our assistance.
“I am afraid that I am not able to provide you with any information regarding government requests for mutual legal assistance.”
The late president, according to documents from Jersey authorities which our sister paper The Nation had seen at the time the fraud investigations were launched, opened a joint account with his daughter Duwa where it was believed that a suspected offence involving fraud took place.
The ACB, through Interpol, had asked Her Majesty of Jersey to help it investigate the suspected fraud relating to bank account number 58099848, Optimum account, held in the name of Bingu wa Mutharika and Duwa Kafoteka.
Belhomme, according to the documents The Nation had seen, wrote to the bank in Jersey: “It appears to the Attorney General that there exists a suspected offence involving serious or complex fraud and that there is good reason for him to exercise the powers conferred upon him by the Investigation of Fraud [Jersey] Law, 1991, as amended.
“I have reasons to believe that you have information about the affairs of the persons under investigation and I, therefore, require you to answer questions or…otherwise furnish information with respect to matters relevant to the investigation to myself or to any person designated to assist in this investigation.”
The advocate said he also required the bank to produce within 21 days from May 14 2014 true copies of account opening, mandates, reports and details of signatories, know-your-customer documentation, bank statements, paid cheques, transaction advices and correspondence (including records of telephone conversations and meetings and managers’ notes) relating to the account.
The Jersey authorities said the documents required shall cover the period from account opening to date and covering the period from May 1 2004 to date.
Bingu had been under probe after his death.
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has said President Mutharika should have done better at the beginning of this New Year in many aspects, including exonerating his name from investigation he faced.
MCP legal adviser, Peter Chakwantha, who is also Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee chairperson, said these issues were brought to the fore before the May 2014 Tripartite Elections, adding the President should have done himself and the nation justice to clear his name from the allegations by issuing a statement.
Chakwantha in the interview said considering the respect the high office of the President demands, this is a matter the ACB should have shown utmost seriousness to investigate.
Chakwantha said: “This is a serious matter the ACB started. As much as the President enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution, this does not extend to his family members. ACB should have realised that the President’s family members were mentioned.
Asked to comment on the matter, State House press secretary Gerald Viola referred Nation On Sunday to Information, Tourism and Civic Education Minister Jappie Mhango, who is also government’s spokesperson.
But Mhango, when asked yesterday, said he needed to consult the State House and also asked for a questionnaire, but there was no response yet by press time.
Bingu’s wealth believed to be in billions of kwacha amassed within eight years of his rule stirred controversy, forcing ACB that time to launch the investigation into the matter locally and internationally. n