Malawi Police have confirmed that it arrested four men for wilfully and unlawfully damaging banknotes during a wedding ceremony at Maziko Garden in Area 47 in Lilongwe.
The suspects are indentified as Fabiano Kachepa (30), Lumbani Nyasuly (36), Dustain Maluwaya (63) and Makalani Elisa (25).
Deputy spokesman for Central Region Police Headquarters Patricia Kasuka said the suspects were arrested on Saturday when they were attending a wedding reception in Lilongwe and were spotted by police officers as they danced and stepped on banknotes and damaging them in the process.
“They were seen dancing and stepping on banknotes and damaged the notes in the process,” Kasauka said.
The four have since been charged for contravening Section 23 (2) (C) Oof the Reserve Bank Act which prohibits any person from wilfully defacing, soiling or damaging bank currency.
It’s part of Malawian tradition to throw bills around at weddings, bridal showers and other social events as a sign of wealth and good luck.The money that’s been thrown on the floor is then trampled on – often, it’s too dirty or torn to be used again.
But the country loses billions in replacing worn out banknotes, according to the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) which has intensified its campaign on proper handling of banknotes through training sessions for master of ceremonies (MCs) to advise the public at celebratory events.
President of the Association of Master of Ceremonies(North) who were recently trained, Martin Chingaipe Nkhoma, said they will urge their audiences against flashing and trampling on bank notes during celebratory events.
RBM director of banking and currency management Mercy Kumbatira is on record as having said the bank loses about K7.7 billion (US$17 million) in importing currency while by January it had far spent over K6 billion (US$13 million) in the notes issued in circulation without including costs of sorting.
She said because of careless handling of the notes, the life span of K20 and K50 is reduced from six months to three months while for larger denominations it is reduced to nine months from two years.
Kumbatira said at the moment the bank spends K23 to buy every note and there are plenty of notes that need replacement.
However, people on the streets blame the bank for putting out notes that are not as durable as those issued in other countries.
Intentional soiling or destroying of currency carries a custodial sentence of up to seven years imprisonment.