Malawi’s Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu on Friday October 3 told parliament that more arrests are coming up and will involve high profile personalities suspected to have played a role in the plundering of public coffers at Capital Hill popularly referred to as cash-gate.
Tembenu presenting a ministerial statement on the final forensic report by British firm, Baker Tilley, said Cashgate was not looting of only civil servants but high ranking political figures were the architects as they appear to have connived with companies to abuse Integrated Finance Management System (IFMS).
“Without any fear of contradiction, cashgate was not only about civil servants, it was a rot from above, sanctioned by top officials whose identities we are about to discover. A fish rots from the head down,” said the Justice Minister.
He stressed that Cashgate was a “systematic intricate cobweb that was sanctioned by people in the authority.”
Tembenu said there is still more work to be done in tracing the cashgate money and interrogating more suspects, who he hinted are high profile political officials.
“More people may have to be questioned including some, Mr Speaker Sir, who maybe sitting within this august House,” Tembenu told parliament.
“We will in due course release the full report to the public. Much of what is contained in the report is also in the public domain,” said the Minister.
The Justice Minister cautioned the media “not to get overly excited with the names contained into the report” and desists from carrying a “media trial” on cashgate suspects.
Roughly K13 billion went missing during the Joyce Banda reign from April 2012. Probably another K90 billion went missing over the eight years of the presidency of the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
In total, about 30 per cent of the country’s budget could have been looted over a decade – almost as much as donors have provided Malawi over the same period.
Tembenu maintained that that there will be more arrests.
“Actual perpetrators and their masters, we will get them,” he warned.
The Justice Minister, nonetheless, pointed out that as arrests of high profile people will be effected, “masters and kingpins will accuse us of witch hunting and political persecution but we are committed to do the right thing at all cost”, saying there is objective evidence to link suspects to the cashgate and there will be no political inspiration in their arrests.
“The evidence that we have uncovered is clear that the fraud was properly and meretriciously planned, carefully coordinated and skilfully executed,” said Tembenu.
Justice Minister said the other challenge was that most intermediaries that were used to siphon billions of government money are asking for plea bargaining when the country does not have the necessary legal framework for it.
Tembenu said government takes note of the public outcry for vigorous action in pursuing cashgate suspects, saying it is “understandable”.
He however said the State machinery will not carry arbitrary arrests unless when they have concluded “our painstaking investigations.”
“Criminal justice, Mr Speaker Sir, is not just about arresting people, it is a process that moves from investigations, to arresting, prosecution, conviction or acquittal to punishment. We simply want to do our job properly,” said the Justice Minister.
He said Malawi government has again approached British government for technical support to recover all cashgate tainted properties.
Tembenu also quoted his predecessor, Fahad Assani, that some of the suspects bought the property in the name of their spouses, friends or children mostly in Lilongwe Area 49 and 43.
The Minister also said commercial banks were used to perpetrate cashgate
“Cashgate scandal is a wake up calls to pass legislation to strethen regulatory role of Financial Intelligence Unit and Reserve Bank of Malawi,” said Tembenu.
During question time, Lilongwe Mapuyu South MP Joseph Njobvuyalema asked as to how much it will take to deal with the issue since it seems to be dragging.
Tembenu said, “It is difficult to say for how long but we will get there.”
Meanwhile, the second meeting of the 45th session of the National Assembly has been adjourned sine die.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :