Judge Chinangwa takes over Paul Mphwiyo cashgate case

High Court Judge Ruth Chinangwa has taken over a K2.4 billion cashgate case involving former budget director in the Ministry of Finance Paul Mphwiyo that dates back to 2014 – during former President Joyce Banda’s administration.

The case has been ongoing for the past five years and was being sat on by Judge Esmie Chombo who recently retired and was appointed, alongside another High Court Judge Agnes Patemba, to foreign missions.

A notice signed by Assistant Registrar for Criminal Division, Madalitso Khoswe Chimwaza, which Nyasa Times, and dated on August 2, 2021, which confirms of Chinangwa taking over the case, advises parties to the case and their lawyers to meet Judge Chinangwa Tuesday next week on August 10.

Mphwiyo: Facing Cashgate charges

“Let all parties and counsel appearing in the above matter attend court before Judge R. Chinangwa on 10th day of August 2021 at 9:00 in the forenoon at the Civil Division Registry for planning and directions on the further conduct of the matter,” the notice reads.

Earlier in May, Judge Chombo refused to recuse herself from the case saying: “I am not going anywhere. I keep on hearing this case until the end and I will judge you.”

Chombo had been handling the criminal case, number 34 of 2014, for past five years and Malawi Law Society (MLS) said it was not pleased with Chombo’s appointed to foreign mission.

MLS had said Chombo had her contract recently extended “to allow for smooth conclusion of one of the country’s high-profile Cashgate cases that has dragged for over 10 years.”

In May 2021, when she delivered her last ruling on an application by the suspects that she should recuse herself in the case, she dismissed the application on May 20 2021 and said she had handed over the case to the Judge President for direction.

“In conclusion, therefore, the application by the defence is dismissed in its entirety for the reasons given in the preceding paragraphs.

“On another note, and in view of the expiry of the Trial Judge’s mandate on 1st June 2021, it is clear that not much can be done within the remaining period before the due date.

“It is my view, therefore, [that] the only option is to refer the matter to the Judge President, Criminal Division, for further directions,” Chombo said in the ruling.

In 2017 convicted former assistant director responsible for planning and development in the then Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, Leonard Kalonga, described Mphwiyo as the “mastermind of cashgate” who allegedly coordinated the siphoning of public funds in 2013.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale had introduced the case as the most despicable loss of trust ever imaginable and described Mphwiyo as a mastermind or axial of public resources plunder of 2013.

Kalonga, who was the first prosecution witness in a case in which Mphwiyo and 18 others are answering K2.4 billion Cashgate-related case, had told the High Court in Lilongwe that it is Mphwiyo who introduced him to the Cashgate scheme.

He said a Mr. Makina, who was working in the Accountant General’s office and he knew as a customer for his used car business, initially introduced Mphwiyo as a top official and it was at their first meeting held at Total Filling Station in Lilongwe’s Area 30 that Kalonga realised the top official was Mphwiyo.

According to Kalonga, when they met at the filling station, he narrated his desire to get better in terms of promotion and being sent to a diplomatic mission as Mr Makina who had been posted to Malawi’s mission office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

When the then deputy director of budget Mphwiyo asked Kalonga about his position in government, Mphwiyo is said to have told Kalonga that it would be difficult for him to help as Mphwiyo thought Kalonga was working in the Accountant General’s office.

However, Kalonga said Mphwiyo told him that most ministries and departments in government were active in raising funds for the then ruling People’s Party (PP) for its 2014 elections campaign and if Kalonga wanted to do better in life, he should be involved in the scheme.

Kalonga said he told Mphwiyo at that meeting, which took place on a Saturday in the early days of April 2013, that he had to go and brief some people who matter in the accounts department of the Ministry of Tourism in which the then chief accountant George Banda was identified.

In their next meeting which took place at the same Area 30 Total Filling Station on a Monday, Mphwiyo, Kalonga and Banda agreed to execute the scheme which involved the ministries and department asking for extra funding from Treasury under the pretext of funding projects within the ministry.

“He [Mphwiyo] mentioned that as someone who is in Treasury as deputy director, he was influential in funding government ministries that asked for extra funding. He said you can ask for extra funding, let’s say K80 million and using his position he would approve that funding and once that money goes into the ministry, the money will be used for political party.

“But he told us that since it is the money that is given to the ministry outside the budget, those people involved will be given some kind of rewards in form of promotions, postings to diplomatic missions as well as cash rewards,” Kalonga had narrated.

He said after being convinced with the scheme, him and Banda talked to other two people in the accounts department Michael Mphatso and Samuel Mzanda who helped in writing of the worksheet for the scheme.

Kalonga said Mphwiyo told them to identify suppliers whose accounts would be used in the process of siphoning money from the government financial system with an assurance that any companies could be included as Mphwiyo was even connected to people responsible for vendor list.

According to Kalonga, in the same month of April 2013 he managed to contact three construction companies and continued to do so in the subsequent months with Mphwiyo also referring some companies to him.

Mphwiyo was shot at the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 during the administration of Joyce Banda.

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