The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it is reviewing the announcement made by the Attorney General, Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda that government is granting a 60 days amnesty to all those who might have corruptly accumulated wealth through dealings with, amongst others, Zuneth Sattar.
Meanwhile, as per its legal mandate, the ACB says it is still proceeding with the investigations against Sattar in cooperation with the National Crime Agency, UK.
The press release from ACB indicates that Chakaka-Nyirenda’s office acted alone in granting the amnesty as per the statement issued by ACB’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Egrita Ndala that says the Bureau only came to know of the amnesty through numerous inquiries it received from various journalists and the public.
The Bureau assured that it will update the public on the decision it will take as regards to the announcement from the AG in line with their investigations on Sattar and others.
On Sunday, the AG announced that following revelations of Sattar’s procurement related offences that occurred in Malawi for a period of over 11 years, Malawi Government has terminated all his business entities’ contracts and debarred the businesses from any public procurement.
Chakaka-Nyirenda further said in “pursuant to justice and restitution balancing act” his office offers the 60-day general amnesty “to all those who might have defrauded Government or illicitly acquired wealth whether through procurement fraud and corruption or otherwise, but willing to restitute or voluntarily surrender the said wealth within 60 days from the date hereof”.
“The amnesty extends to the 77 Cashgate files that are currently before the prosecution authorities, the commercial banks that facilitated Cashgate and to the investigations connected with Mr. Zuneith Sattar.”
But this amnesty received total condemnation by the concerned public that reached the ACB with social ills commentator, Onjezani Kenani in the lead, who opined that Chakaka-Nyirenda amnesty “undermines the rule of law”.
“It is solely designed to protect his political masters and not the interests of the poor Malawians who have been swindled.”
He further said several lawyers reached out to him saying the AG was “overstepping his mandate by declaring the amnesty to Sattar suspects”, saying Chakaka-Nyirenda does not have those powers.
“That is why in that memo of his, he has not quoted the law that empowers him to grant such a blanket amnesty. [The lawyers] say he needs Parliament to do that. He needs a law to cover him.”
He quotes an unnamed lawyer as writing to him: “To me, that’s a miscalculation or indeed the Attorney-General has overstepped his mark. This matter is within the purview of the Director of Public Prosecution or the Anti-Corruption Bureau who are actually prosecuting these cases in court.
“So any pronouncements on amnesty should actually be coming from the DPP’s or ACB’s office.
“Secondly, on pursuing Sattar via diplomatic channels and/or otherwise, same argument – how would the Attorney General establish or determine that Sattar defrauded this country or was awarded contracts via corruption or through illegality?
“That can only be established by suing Sattar in a court of law. And the office to sue is either the DPP or ACB and not the AG.
“So, I guess bwana AG has extended his tentacles beyond his jurisdiction — easy to score marks from the unlearned. Otherwise, the cancellation of the contracts has always been a welcome development.
“Key is for the AG and ACB to work together so that payments for contracts already executed but suspected to have been had through corruption/illegality be stayed.
Onjezani quotes another, who questioned the AG:
1) On what basis are you giving these criminals amnesty?;
2) How sure can we be that you are not just trying to protect them?;
3) Who are these people exactly? Can you let the nation know their names?;
4) How will you know that what they pay back to the nation is the sum total of what they stole?;
5) What if they pay half or a quarter or one-tenth only? What will give you the satisfaction that they have indeed paid back what they stole from Malawians?
“No, Sir. This feels like you are just trying to protect your political masters and other fat cats. We will not allow you to pull wool over our faces. The cancellation of Sattar contracts is welcome, but this amnesty decision, which you have unilaterally announced, is certainly not. Thank you for the great service you are providing to the nation.”
Meanwhile, the AG says the declared amnesty will not involve those who the State has overwhelming evidence against or kingpins of corruption, citing individuals such as Sattar, Karim Batatawala and Zameer Karim as among those who will not be considered for amnesty.
NationOnline reports that the AG says the amnesty will mostly involve individuals for whom investigators may not have evidence against but who can testify against the kingpins of corruption.
The AG adds that any senior government officials such as Ministers who appear on the Sattar list will not be beneficiaries of the amnesty.
The ACB, in partnership with the UK National Crime Agency, is investigating Sattar and his business associates for alleged fraudulent obtaining of government procurement contracts from Malawi Police Service and Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and others using underhand tactics.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :