The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is going to appeal former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda’s acquittal by Zomba Magistrate Court which found him with no case to answer on corruption-related case regarding the maize procurement from Zambia.
Chaponda is the powerful figure in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and seen as successor to party President Peter Mutharika when he retires as party leader
Recently, Chief resident magistrate (CRM) Paul Chiotcha also acquitted Rashid Tayub, one of the directors of Transglobe Produce Export Limited, after trashing the State’s evidence in its totality.
Chaponda was answering three charges which included giving false information to Anti Corruption Bureau, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while Tayub was answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position.
Addressing the media in Lilongwe on Tuesday, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said the bureau still believes that they had a strong case against the two.
“We are not satisfied with the manner in which the case was handled as there is evidence that Chaponda was found with unexplained huge sums of money in his house.
“We are going to appeal and ask interpretation from the High Court on the matter”, he said.
Matemba said the Bureau will appeal against offences of being found in possession of foreign currency and giving false information.
“We are going to approach the High Court, seeking their interpretation of how the magistrate handled the two counts of giving false information and possession of foreign currency. We do not agree with the way the magistrate interpreted the two counts. The law allows us under the Corrupt Practices Act to investigate and prosecute any other offence that we come across in the course of investigating a suspected corrupt practice,” Matemba said.
He said, by ruling that Chaponda has no case to answer in the two counts of possessing foreign currency and giving false information, the court has put the bureau in an awkward situation on how to deal with the other offences that it comes across in investigations.
President Peter Mutharika in January ordered an investigation into a $34.5 million government maize order, after a Zambian opposition leader Saviour Chishimba said he had seen documents showing Malawi had been charged $345 per ton for 100 000 tonnes of Zambian white maize worth $215 a ton.
In a statement made available to Nyasa Times, the CSOs—Youth and Society (YAS), Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)—say two independent and seperate inquires; one set by the legislature and another by the President, separately presented reports that unanimously implicated Chaponda of wrongdoing but ACB tactically presented a weaker case.
The groups say Chaponda case where he was found with case stacked in suitcases at home was similar to that of a former junior civil servant who was sentenced to nine years in jail with hard labour for his part in the “cashgate” corruption scandal.
They refereed his case to Victor Sithole who was found with 122 million Malawi kwacha and $22, 000.
The CSOs also noted on contradictions and an apparent dishonesty in how the money was acquired.
“Apart from such possible illicit acquisition of the money, the status quo of being found with custody of such huge amounts of foreign currency constituted clear financial crimes for which one Victor Sithole is successfully committed to prison after procedural judicial trial. Despite all the clear evidence of criminal underhand dealings as pointed out by the incoherent submissions from the accused and other facts that spoke for themselves, such the illegal possession of Forex, Dr. Chaponda has been found that he has no case to answer. This essentially means that he has been shielded from trial,” reads the statement.
Sithole, who was government’s Accounts assistant, the second official to be found guilty over Cashgate was found guilty of stealing more than $66,000 in cash.
His arrest in August 2013 after cash was found in his car boot kick-started what became known as the “cashgate” affair – the worst financial scandal in the country’s history.
It became public knowledge a month later following the shooting of the finance ministry’s then budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
The CSOs said Chaponda case is similar to that of Sithole after ACB investigators confiscated K124 million, $57 500, 2 720 Indian rupee, 518 Ethiopian birr, 610 Pula, 1 200 meticais, 1 250 Kenya shillings, 80 Hong Kong dollars, 1 010 Japanese yen, 22 370 South African rands, 55 euros, 29 Zambian kwacha and 100 Namibian dollar.
YAS is led by Charles Kajoloweka, CHRR by Timothy Mtambo and while Cedep is led by Gift Trapence.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :