Unpacking the Lutepo conundrum: Malawi chief cashgate suspect

The court trial of the shooting of former Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo, which has begun in earnest promises to unearth some America’s Al Capon type of underhand practices and dirty dealings. At the moment, it seems the main man is Osward Lutepo, one time fugitive and state witness, and, now, not very state witness.

Lutepo, one of the main witnesses in the ongoing case where former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara is accused of attempted murder on Mphwiyo, has authored a letter addressed to the Attorney General asking him to institute investigations he claims will reveal the actual beneficiaries of the cash-gate scandal.

He has also asked for a probe into what he dubbed as ‘professional misconduct’ of Director of Public Prosecutions Bruno Kalemba, former Minister of Justice Fahad Assani and lawyer Kamudoni Nyasulu in relation to their role in the scandal. In the letter, dated 17th July, 2014, Lutepo alleges that Kalemba, Assani and Nyasulu forced him to give false statements that would implicate Kasambara as well as some senior accountants in government.

Lutepo:   Could face other charges

Lutepo: Could face other charges

He was warned against linking President Joyce Banda or the People’s Party (PP) to cash-gate, he alleges, in exchange of him being state witness upon his return from abroad, where he was on a self- exile –oops he claims “business trip”.

Lutepo, an MBA holder and owner of several high profile businesses, alleges that he was coerced to implicate Kasambara in exchange for immunity or a lesser sentence by the powers that be that time.

This is not the first time Lutepo has shifted gears as regards his testimony or lack thereof around the cash-gate saga, making everything he says highly suspect or utterly criminal.

Immediately after the shooting of Mphwiyo on September 13, 2013, Ralph Kasambara is believed to have orchestrated a deluge of articles and opinions through the mainstream and social media discrediting the integrity of Mphwiyo and ensuring he is not portrayed as a victim of his own shooting, and that there is no public sympathy generated for him.

One article authored by someone who was obviously following Mphwiyo on that fateful day, went furtherin detailing how the former Budget Director travelled; the people he met and the mundane things they talked about before he took a bullet at the gates of his house in suburban Area 43.

It was clear the article was not the works of some passive simpletons, but part of a carefully co-ordinated function by a professional franchise with defined objectives. They wanted to portray Mphwiyo as equally culpable, and as a victim of the works of his own hands who must have seen it coming.

The Mphwiyo shooting was meant to be a smart drop-hit-and-dash, resulting into the death ‘Cashgate’ whistle-blower. As it turned out, things never went according to plan. The subject did not die, and the action merely resulted in an ‘attempted’ murder with undesired domino effects.

Ralph Kasambara SC is obviously a smart lawyer, and has always regarded himself to be smarter than many of his contemporaries. Yes he is, but sleekness can only go far. It was thus bad news for him when he was arrested. It was terrible news, again, when Osward Lutepo agreed to be state witness to testify against him.

Was it not time to engage the survival gear to stem-off what would obviously be incalculable consequences? A telephone call to Lutepo could have been a juicy option. It comes as no surprise therefore to see Lutepo making a sudden about face claiming duress and firing too many shots in the dark. From what the man has demonstrated in this whole cash-gate and Mphwiyo shooting saga, he is a confused invertebrate with no real spine. His latest overtures are clearly not the works of his own hands, but a product of some arm-twisting from the real Mafioso.

Obviously some cunning legal mind was breathing over his shoulders. Don’t I see Ralph Kasambara’s hand behind this Lutepo’s letter? He is the one who stands to benefit more from Lutepo’s sudden change of heart.

Going by the principle of motive and opportunity in criminology, Kasambara stands to benefit more with Lutepo out of the witness stand in the ongoing case. He has the motive.

His opportunity is the change in government. People become vulnerable and controls often become lax when there is change of government. Lutepo doesn’t appear to be a man beyond such forces. He has failed to escape Kasambara’s web of deceit and chicanery. Already, it seems he is becoming part of the outfit, which makes itself available as hired guns to shoot in any direction as will be dictated by the new powers at Capital Hill.

In my opinion this is all a carefully written script by Ralph Kasambara in his bid to get himself off the hook from the murder of Mphwiyo using the new administration of Peter Mutharika as a condom. His main casts are Osward Lutepo and now Saulos Chilima [vice president].

Chilima, whose name is among those that have been mentioned by the British forensic auditing firm, Baker Tilly in the cash-gate saga, is said to have met Kasambara at the former’s night club in Lilongwe.

He is said to have been infuriated and accused Kasambara’s of being involved in spreading his (Chilima’s) involvement allegations in cash-gate by leaking it to the media, and even penning the story of Chilima’s purchase and sale of houses to Maxwell Namata, who is currently answering charges relating to the looting of money at Capital Hill.

As a way forward, the two, who are bosom buddies from the time Chilima was Airtel boss, are said to have agreed to cease fire against each other but to form an alliance whose objective would be to deal with the immediate backlash of Chilima’s involvement in cash-gate. The first step is to deflect attention from the Vice President by ensuring that some high profile names are also implicated in cash-gate.

Lutepo might not know it, but he is the duo’s first recruit in pursuit of their toxic objectives. He has been singled out as the lapdog to be used to wage a smear campaign against innocent high profile people.

There might not be a clearer demarcation about who is really using who. What is obvious though is that the on-going scheming is to ensure that the water is muddied enough and that if the law prevails, it is not only Chilima, Lutepo and Kasambara who go down. Stinks to the core!

*The author is a social and political commentator based in Lilongwe.  Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Nyasa Times.

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