Convicted former tourism official Treza Namathanga Senzani sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with hard labour for the “Cashgate” – the worst financial scandal in Malawi’s history that led to the suspension of foreign aid, will launch an appeal against her sentence.
Senzani, 50, pleaded guilty to stealing K63 million ( about $150,000 or £93,000 ) from state coffers, and was condemned to three years behind bars for money laundering and theft.
Defence lawyer Nector Mhura plans to appeal the sentence.
Mhura told reporters that there was an “option of an appeal” , saying he was not happy because of the custodial sentence describing it as “harsh”.
The lawyer who is also a law lecturer at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, told reporters after the sentencing that the law in Malawi was very clear on first offenders like Senzani, saying the primary consideration was for a non-custodial sentence.
He said his client should not have been sent to jail because she showed restitution by paying back the money, pleaded guilty so early without wasting court’s time and she will lose her job while chances of getting another job were slim.
Mhura said the “public interest outweigh the mitigating factors.”
He said Senzani will launch an appeal in the Supreme Court against the custodial sentence.
“Despite being a first offender, she does not deserve a suspended sentence,” ruled judge Ivy Kamanga.
Justice Kamanga said that as a principal secretary, Senzani “was a custodian of money and willingly stole government money.”
“It was an illegal act that had an impact on the economy.”
The judge said Senzani “willingly” stole government money and she had no intention of returning the funds to state coffers. The judge called this an “illegal act” which affected the economy of the country as well as health systems because poor Malawians lacked medicines in hospitals because of the theft, whose monies could have been used to buy drugs.
Said the judge: “She corruptly performed her duties in favour of her company with intend to defraud the government and without authority.”
She said Visual Impact, which traded in electronics, did not have a contract with government.
Deputy director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Reneck Matemba, who led the prosecution, said he was “contented” with the custodial sentence meted on the convict.
Western donor nations and agencies, which provide 40% of Malawi’s budget, pulled the plug on vital aid worth around $150m in reaction to the cashgate scandal.
Allegations of the massive looting of government money became public following the shooting of the finance ministry’s then budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.
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