The High Court in Lilongwe yesterday released on bail former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) commander general Henry Odillo (retired) and his then deputy Clement Kafuwa on a K2 million (US$4 444) bail bond.
The two, who have been formally charged, were arrested on Monday evening by the Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly authorising payments for goods and services amounting to K1.9 billion (US$4.2 million) paid to Thuso Investments, which the State claims were not delivered.
The two have been charged with abuse of public office contrary to Section 25(b) (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA), negligence by public officer in preserving money or any other property contrary to Section 284(1) of the Penal Code and money laundering contrary to Section (1) (d) of the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act.
When The Nation crew arrived at the court premises yesterday, the complex was filled with both well-wishers and family members who were waiting for High Court judge Esme Chombo to deliver her ruling.
During a court recess at lunch time, which took almost an hour, family members stayed with the two accused and were seen having their packed lunch and drinks.
Some of the well-wishers were seen eating bananas as they sat on the grass lawn some 200 metres from the court entrance
Odillo’s wife, dressed in purple attire and chitenje (wrap-around cloth), was close by the husband who looked smart in a pair of cream-white trousers with a white shirt and a navy blue blazer. The couple was also at times seen holding private talks.
Odillo interacted with members of his family and at times was seen laughing while firmly shaking the hands of his visitors.
Kafuwa, on the other hand, dressed in a matching navy blue jacket and pair of trousers with a purple shirt, sat on the court benches near the court entrances. He was being chatted up by well-wishers as he sipped bottled water.
In an interview later, ACB prosecutor Imran Saidi said Odillo and Kafuwa had been given bail on condition that they pay K2 million cash and surrender their travel documents.
Said Saidi: “Initially, the State wanted a bail bond of K5 million (US$11 111), but after a plea from Odillo’s lawyers, the figure came down to K2 million. He has been ordered to surrender three sureties bonded at K5 million [each] not cash, he has been told that his house in Area 43 [in Lilongwe] should be attached to his bond and must never be sold. Further to that, he should be reporting for his bail every two weeks and must never [leave] Lilongwe or the country.
“Similar conditions are also attached to lieutenant general Kafuwa, the only difference is where he [Kafuwa] will report his bail at Limbe Police Station [in Blantyre] and his lodge in Kanjedza has been attached to his bail. He is free to operate the lodge and generate his income, but [the lodge] must never be disposed of.”
According to Saidi, the State is still sorting out issues to do with the case before the duo could be brought to court to take plea.
The arrest of Odillo and Kafuwa came after ACB, in January this year, also arrested a former MDF lieutenant colonel Nelson Kauwa whose company, Thuso Investments Group, was linked to contracts for the disputed payments at MDF.
In an interview after Kauwa’s arrest, ACB deputy director general Reyneck Matemba had said Thuso had valid contracts with MDF prior to 2013, but the graft-busting agency found that there was no evidence of a K900 million contract to supply blank bullets.
The September 2014 forensic audit report by British firm Baker Tilly found that close to K18 billion (US$40millinon) of the K24 billion (US$53.3million) plundered between April and September 2013 was channelled through MDF.
In February 2014, Weekend Nation revealed several transactions at MDF that attracted the ACB after, among others, over K3 billion was paid out by the military in a single day through transactions authorised by some senior military officers.
Odillo and Kafuwa were apparently signatories of several cheques, including K3 billion to International Procurement Services (IPS) owned by businessperson Osward Lutepo—who is also answering his own money laundering charges—and K1.5 billion to Thuso, co-owned by Kauwa and Alexander Banda, according to information sourced from ACB.