Court orders Lutepo released unconditionally

Businessperson Oswald Lutepo, the chief suspect in ‘cashgate’, the systematic plunder of government money as been unconditionally released by Lilongwe Magistrate Court.

Lutepo has been charged with perjury for confessing that he gave false testimony under oath in court.

Private practice lawyer Oswald Mkupira, who is representing Lutepo, told the court that said his client fell ill in police cell Sunday night after his arrest and asked for bail considering that he was already on bail on “more serious matter.”

State prosecutors did not object to the bail applications.

Lutepo:  Freed
Lutepo: Freed

Magistrate Chisomo Nkosekela ordered Lutepo to be released unconditionally as he is already on K50 million (US$125 000) bail bond.

The court noted Lutepo already surrender his travel documents and is imposed with a reporting routine to Police on Monday and Friday before 3pm every week.

Lutepo was re-arrested following his allegations that senior government officials were behind the scandal where businessmen connived with civil servants and politicians to swindle government through payments for goods and services not rendered to government.

In a scathing letter to Attorney General, Lutepo alleges that he was threatened into implicating some senior government officials in the former Joyce Banda administration while shielding others.

He said he was warned that should he refuse to play along he would be implicated in the shooting of former Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo.

“I was told in no uncertain terms that the government was after the former Minister of Justice, Ralph Kasambara. I was told that I should cooperate to ensure that Ralph Kasambara was implicated in the cashgate cases,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale and copied to Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa and Western embassies.

The shooting of Mphwiyo on 13 Sept last year unravelled the scandal. Soon after the shooting former, Banda said the youthful technocratic was targeted because he was championing her anti-corruption crusade.

Following the shooting huge stashes of cash – in Malawi kwacha, US dollars and South African rands – started showing up in unimaginable places like in car trunks, under pillows or in baby dolls.

An audit by the British audit firm Baker Tilly revealed that in all 13 billion Malawi kwacha (about US$30 million) was looted in the scandal. Apparently, the looting started in 2005 and about K92 billion was plunder, according to an audit report deposited to parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

At least 70 suspects, including Lutepo, were arrested and are currently in court answering fraud and corruption charges surrounding cashgate.

Meanwhile, Western donor nations and agencies have suspended some US$150 million in budgetary support in reaction to the scandal.

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