A chief suspect in Malawi’s “Cashgate” corruption scandal, who was a high-ranking official and financier of ex-president Joyce Banda’s People’s Party, Oswald Lutepo has sealed a deal to be State witness to implicate Banda and avoid custodial sentence.
Lutepo was arrested in November last year for money laundering after he allegedly pocketed $6 million from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.
He is also charged with perjury after sending a letter to the Attorney General claiming he was threatened and told not to implicate Banda in the “Cashgate” allegations, the biggest financial scandal in the history of the small southern African country.
Meanwhile, he has been in discussion with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale, proposing to become a State witness and a deal has been struck, AG Kalekeni Kaphale has confirmed.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu told a local paper on Sunday that “several of the accused persons have approached the DPP’s office for a possible plea bargain.”
Another suspect, Pika Manondo, has also struck the deal to be state witness.
ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala has refused to discuss “operational issues” in the media.
Commenting on the development in the Nation on Sunday, Chancellor College law lecturer Dr. Mwiza Nkhata warned that while the law allows pre-trial bargaining, justice cannot be fully served when accused persons only return the money they stole after striking deals.
“Despite the law allowing pre-trial bargaining, it’s also not automatic that every person who asks for a deal should be allowed. The gravity and severity of the crime determines [the action taken].
“The other issue is, the K20 million of 2010 is not the same as the K20 million of 2014…and government should also strive to get the other benefits of proceeds of crime and ensure that generally justice is done and not just accept that someone wants to return the money he [or she] is accused to have stolen,” said Nkhata.
“Cashgate” erupted after an audit ordered by former president Banda found that about K20 billion in state funds had been looted by officials in less than six months last year.
The scandal led international donors to suspend aid to Malawi, where half of its 15 million people live below the poverty line.
In his letter, which was also addressed to Western embassies, Lutepo he was threatened and told to “implicate” former justice minister Ralph Kasambara in the shooting of budget director and corruption whistleblower Paul Mphiyo last year, the incident which sparked “Cashgate”.
New president Peter Mutharika has vowed to get to the “truth” of the crisis, which is said to have originated in 2005 when his late brother was the country’s leader.
Banda, formerly vice-president to Bingu wa Mutharika who has always denied any wrongdoing, became president after the sudden death of Bingu in 2012.
She was defeated in a hotly-contested presidential election in May.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :