Arrest imminent for Chaponda over corruption element in Maizegate

Graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)  is zeroing in  on George Thapatula Chaponda—the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Leader of the House —  and an arrest is imminent after  concluding its investigations into  corruption element in Malawi’s maize imports from Zambia, Nyasa Times understands.

Chaponda: Arrest imminent

Two state sponsored public inquiries recommended that Chaponda, who is also the vice president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), should  be investigated.

“An arrest for Chaponda  is imminent,” sources at  ACB told Nyasa Times.

Reyneck Matemba, the deputy director of the ACB said the bureau concluded its investigations three weeks ago on  forensic investigation of suitcases stashed with cash – US$58,000 and MK124 million seied at Chaponda’s house during the raid in February this year.

ACB raided Chaponda’s residence following a recommendation by the commission of inquiry into Malawi’s maize imports from Zambia that he should be investigated.

Matemba said ACB is coming up with good charges for Chaponda.

“We need to come up with a very good case and good analysis …” he said .

Matemba said they wanted to finalise the investigations and invite Chaponda for “questioning.”

He said the bureau has been workly closely with  Reserve Bank of Malawi on the cash which was seized from Chaponda’s residence.

“We will be inviting  him to be questioniong. We are not shielding Chaponda,” he said, adding “one aspect of investigation can lead to another.”

But law experts say Chaponda  has been afforded enough time and space to build his story, saying investigations could have gone ahead having interviewed him under caution which is not a presumption of guilt.

Chaponda justified why he is cash-rich after they confiscated at least K166 million stashed in suitcases at his house, saying he  has worked for the United Nations (UN) for over 20 years and has his own investment..

He  also submitted his assets declaration form to ACB which indicates he hold many bank accounts in foreign countries where he worked for UN.

A lists of assets Chaponda declared as of  February 1, 2017 seen by Nyasa Times shows that he has 20 real estate properties in Lilongwe, Blantyre, France, Luchenza, Mangochi, Thyolo and Chiradzulu.

According to Chaponda declaration, the source of funds for the property, valued at K853 million, included bank loans and his earnings from the UN, United Kingdom, South Africa, France and his children abroad and Chaponda investments.

In a political rally  in his Mulanje South West constituency at Chonde in Mulanje recently,  Chaponda  said he was ready and prepared to be arrested.

“I have been waiting to be arrested because people have been saying so,” said Chaponda, a lawyer by profession.

He denies any wrong-doing.

“The law says you are innoncent until proved guilty, so I am not afraid, let them prove me guilty,” said Chaponda.

Legal commentator based at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, Professor Danwood Chirwa  argued that Chaponda has “committed or is alleged to have committed a litany of legal infringements including flouting procurement law, gross negligence in the discharge of his public duties, perjury, arson, corruption and money laundering.”

University of Malawi political scientist Boniface Dulani is in record saying that the decision to fire Chaponda from Cabinet  was forced on  President Peter Mutharika who would have maintained the minister if he had his way.

Dulani said the maizegate—just like Cashgate on Joyce Banda—will forever be associated with the Mutharika’s regime.

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