The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has demonstrated “ high level of crookedness” when it introduced a notice in the High Court showing an extension of the restrictions on former president Peter Mutharika’s personal account and the joint account with former first lady Gertrude Mutharika at Standard Bank, his lawyer Samuel Tembenu has charged.
Tembenu, a former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in Mutharika’s administration, said in an interview on Tuesday after the High Court in Blantyre completed hearing a case in which the immediate past president wants ACB t[o unfreeze his bank accounts.
The lawyer said he was “shocked” when ACB chief legal and prosecution officer Victor Chiwala introduced a notice in court showing extension of a Restriction Notice on the accounts which expired on December 7 this year.
Tembenu said “in what can only be described as high level of crookedness on the part of State institution, behind everybody else, they went to the magistrate’s court without even inviting the applicant and obtained an extension.”
He said the matter only was known in Chambers on Tuesday, saying even High Court judge Rowland Mbvundula was surprised.
“They have been hiding about that, yet we have been talking to each other. So, that’s why I am saying there is high level of crookedness on the part of State institutions called the ACB,” slammed Tembenu.
The Mutharikas alongside then State Residences chief of staff Peter Mukhito, Malawi Revenue Authority deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi and Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale had their bank accounts frozen in connection with an investigation into the importation of cement worth K5 billion by businessperson Shaffie Chunara allegedly using Mutharika’s privileges as President.
However, Mbilizi was allowed to access K2 million from her account for medical treatment, but the bureau refused the Mutharikas permission to access their accounts on advice of investigators.
Tembenu also questioned ACB’s impartiality over the case, saying it was puzzling that while Mutharika has been repeatedly denied access to the account, Mbiliizi was allowed access to hers.
The law allows the bureau to freeze assets for preservation from disposal of suspected proceeds of crime, pending conclusion of investigations under the Corrupt Practices Act and the Financial Crimes Act.