Malawi’s chief Cashgate suspect, Oswald Lutepo, has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges of conspiring to murder former Malawi Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo, whose shooting on 13 September 2013 led to the unravelling of the systematic looting of millions of government money dubbed ‘cashgate’.
Lutepo, who is reportedly medically not fit to stand trial, took the plea before Lilongwe High Court Judge Michael Ntambo in absensia through his lawyer Osward Mtupila.
During cross examination that lasted a few minutes, Mtupila asked Mphwiyo if he knew Lutepo and if they were friends.
Mphwiyo told the court, presided over by Justice Michael Mtambo, that he knew Lutepo and they were chatting.
However, he told the court that prior to his shooting, he had no grudges with Lutepo and don’t have any reason why he could want him dead.
Accoridng to Mphwiyo two bullets hit him in the mandible and another went through his shoulder to his chest. One bullet was removed in a South African hospital but two others – lodged in his spinal column – will remain inside the 39-year-old for the rest of his life.
The gun-shot survivor said that he was waiting for his guard to open the gate to his house when he saw some people approaching the vehicle in the darkness.
Mphwiyo’s shooting unravelled ‘cashgate’ and the resultant discovery that up to US $30 million was minted from the government payment system, where politicians and businessmen colluded with civil servants for payments for goods and services not rendered to government.
Soon after Mphwiyo’s shooting millions of cash in Malawi kwacha, US dollars and South African rands started pitching up in unlikely places like in car trunks, baby dolls, under beds or in pillow cases.
Cashgate dates back to 2005 when the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) was launched and Lutepo prominently appears to have got the second highest payments on the list of individuals amounting to K4.4 billion (US$9.8 million).