- Govt engages foreign agencies to recover assets
Malawi Government has moved to engage authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assist recover unspecified sums of money suspected to be illicit which local businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala allegedly stashed overseas.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni confirmed the move in a written response to a questionnaire yesterday, but said progress was dependent on the cooperation of foreign governments.
The State agencies involved in the operation include the DPP, the Office of the Attorney General (AG), the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA).
Kayuni said Batatawala was not the only target as other persons also believed to have been involved in such alleged clandestine activities in other countries were also on the radar.
He said: “In accordance with the law, the DPP arranges them on special directions and coordination from the AG. We are leaving no stone unturned.
“We are pursuing all legal means to see to it that repulsive bleeding and externalisation of taxpayers’ money in the Batatawala matter and others is dealt with sharply and swiftly.
“The only caveat is that these processes are on reliance of the foreign governments’ cooperation. We are undertaking a tacit approach pursuant to law to court and cultivate cooperation from UAE. We await that cooperation from UAE.”
In a separate interview, AG Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda said they are determined to recover at least K50 billion from different local firms stashed in offshore bank accounts in different countries.
“We know the locations where these monies and properties are. We have faith in foreign governments that they will cooperate to help us achieve this,” he said
But when asked in an interview yesterday for his reaction on the fresh claims, Batatawala said he knew nothing about the claims and challenged the concerned State agencies to provide evidence to prove their case.
In recent years, Batatawala has emerged as one of the major suppliers of goods and services to the Malawi Government, especially to the security agencies such as Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
The AG has since debarred some companies owned by businesspersons of Asian descent, including Batatawala, for allegedly making huge and questionable claims against government.
In three separate letters we have seen, Nyirenda has stopped the Police and Malawi Defence Force from dealing with the companies and their owners.
He has also advised the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to implement his resolution not to deal with the cited companies.
In a letter addressed to the Inspector General (IG) of Police George Kainja dated November 30 2021, the AG said in view of the meeting he held with Police on November 11 2021 and claims against his office by companies owned by the businesspersons in question, MPS should immediately stop dealing with the companies.
Nyirenda said the companies have court cases against government and that most of the cases were questionable as they range from breach of contract to payment of interests.
The AG said his office is faced with claims in excess of K2 trillion, which is beyond the K1.9 trillion 2021/22 National Budget, and was giving strict scrutiny to K800 billion worth of demand letters for compensation from lawyers because some of them appear fraudulent.