Malawi cashgate: Lutepo tells court ‘I lied’

Businessman Oswald Lutepo, the chief suspect in the systematic plunder of government money, dubbed ‘cashgate’, is proving to be unreliable and hostile witness after on Friday  he told the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court that he lied in his testimony on the 9th April against another suspect Victor Sithole.

Lutepo – a former governing People’s Party executive member and one of its chief financiers,  told the court that he gave Sithole about K130 million and not the K112 million that was found in his possession as he earlier told the court.

“I would like to agree that I gave K130 million to Mr. Sithole, but the money was meant for the maize business we had,” said Lutepo in his testimony on Friday.

Lutepo:  I lied

Lutepo: I lied

Sithole is being accused of being found with unexplained large amount of money in September last year that led to discovery of the massive theft of public money out of Treasury.

Lutepo, in his earlier testimony which he has now said was all lies,  denied claiming the K112 million kwacha found in Sithole’s possession, saying he only did so after being forced by lawyers Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita.

“I only came to the court to confirm that I was in maize business with Sithole, but not to confirm that the money he was found in possession of was part of the money he is being accused of,” he said.

Lutepo recently also hit headlines after he wrote  a letter to Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale alleging that he was forced to lie under oath in his earlier statements in relation to cashgate scandal.

In the letter, Luepo alleges that he was threatened into implicating some senior government officials in the former Joyce Banda administration while shielding others.

Lutepo said he was warned that should he refuse to play along he would be implicated in the shooting of former Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo.

“I was told in no uncertain terms that the government was after the former Minister of Justice, Ralph Kasambara. I was told that I should cooperate to ensure that Ralph Kasambara was implicated in the cashgate cases,” he writes in the letter addressed to Attorney General and copied to Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa and Western embassies.

The shooting of Mphwiyo on 13 Sept. 2013 unravelled the scandal. Soon after the shooting, Banda said the youthful technocratic was targeted because he was championing her anti-corruption crusade.

Following the shooting, huge stashes of cash – in Malawi kwacha, US dollars and South African rands – started showing up in unimaginable places like car trunks, under pillows or in baby dolls.

An audit by the British audit firm Baker Tilly revealed that in all ,13 billion Malawi kwacha (about US$30 million) was looted in the scandal.

At least 70 suspects, including Lutepo, were arrested and are currently in court answering fraud and corruption charges.

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