Malawi anti-graft body denies Paladin’s bribery complaint on top govt official

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said it has not received a complaint from Australian uranium miner Paladin, alleging corrupt practices by the ruling People’s Party top brass and an unnamed journalist despite Paladin general manager for international affairs, Greg Walker insisting he informed ACB.

Paladin operates Kayelekela Uranium Mine in northern Malawi district of Karonga.

Walker said his company asked ACB to investigate corruption allegations involving senior ruling party officials and allegations that Thyolo Thava legislator Lifred Nawena made against it.

“I informed ACB of both matters. With regard to issue of defamation by Honourable [Lifred] Nawena in Parliament, ACB is investigating and I was formally interviewed on Friday, February 15th, 2013,” Walker told Nyasa Times in an e-mailed response to a questionnaire.

Ndala: No Paladin's complaint on top government official on bribery charges
Ndala: No Paladin’s complaint on top government official on bribery charges

But ACB’s Senior Public Relations Officer Egrita  Ndala said ACB has not received the complaint on the senior government official soliciting bribes but that   is was reviewing the complaint by Paladin  on MP Nawena’s allegations to determine whether there is merit to warrant the Bureau’s action.

However, under Malawi’s laws, Parliament is a privileged institution hence MPs have immunity from prosecution regarding utterances they make during the sitting of the National Assembly.

On whether the graft busting body interviewed Walker, Ndala was noncommittal, saying ACB would not like to discuss operational matters as doing so is unethical.

“Discussing such matters at this point would jeopardize the inquiry,” she said.

Two weeks ago the uranium miner indicated that it has lodged an official complaint with ACB following allegations that top government official through intermediaries had solicited US$1 million (about MK360 million) ‘gift’ from the company.

The Malawi Government is increasingly under pressure from various stakeholders to renegotiate the contract for uranium mining investment at Kayelekera. But Paladin has argued that Malawi cannot currently renegotiate the mining deal, saying doing so would be breaching the provisions of the agreement.

However, Ndala said ACB is calling upon anyone who may have information on the matter to provide it to the Bureau in order for it to take proper action on the matter.

“The only complaint the Bureau has is in relation to the fact that Paladin was defamed by Honourable Nawena in Parliament by alleging that the company was corrupt,” she said.

Nyasa Times last year reported that a senior government official was soliciting bribes from Paladin. An investigation on the matter has been ongoing. Nyasa Times asked Walker about the allegations and he confirmed there were advances made to Paladin that the company should palm-oil the powers that be.

He said Paladin was advised by a journalist (name shielded) that he allegedly was approached by ruling People’s Party representative suggesting that a message be conveyed to the Company “indicating that we ought to provide financial support to the current government as we allegedly had done for the former government.”

Walker reiterated that Paladin’s Corporate Governance Policy prohibits payments (either bribes or donations) to politicians or political parties.

“Paladin had not done so with the DPP and would not do so now with the People’s Party. I made this position very clear at the time and I reiterate it now,” he said.

He said in a written response “no direct approach was made to the Company, but in light of the seriousness of the allegation, I sought legal advice on what course of action Paladin should take in these circumstances.”

Walker said the first advances for soliciting bribes were around mid-October 2012 and then there were allegedly a couple of follow-up calls.

He said at first he reported the matter to the Director of Mining, Charles Kaphwiyo.

“The circumstances of the matter were unusual, insofar as no direct contact was made by the cited political figure to the Company. The message was conveyed via a third party, so the information may or may not have been factual and the named individual may well have had no knowledge of the approach being made in his or her name,” said Walker.

“The suggestion was also of a ‘gift’ and not a payment in exchange for a specific service such that it would constitute a bribe, so the issue was not as clear cut as you imply. I sought legal advice as to what was the proper cause of action for the Company to take in such circumstances. In fact, the advice was that the approach was of such a tenuous nature that there was no requirement in law for the Company to draw it to the attention of the ACB.”

Paladin boss also confirmed that he had a meeting with ACB director Justice Rizine Mzikamanda, on 06 December 2012 where he was assured that the bureau will determine whether an investigation could be launched or not.

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