Malawi court fines Srilankan MK200,000 for dealing in foreign currency

The Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court on Friday, 28th April, 2023, fined a Srilankan national Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis a meagre MK200,000 (about $200) for dealing in foreign currency, sparking discontent among the court’s patrons.

But Senior State Advocate, Mathews Chione, said the fine is what the law stipulates, adding “the magistrate could not do otherwise”.

Alwis could have served one year in prison in the event that he had failed to pay the fine.

Alwis in black mask standing among his lawyers

His charge sheet read as follows:

“Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis between 1 January 2019 and 11th June 2021, in the City of Lilongwe, without the permission of the Minister of Finance, exchanged foreign currency with Lin Huixin amounting to 310, 000.00 United States Dollars”.

The Srilankan promptly pleaded guilty on Wednesday, 26th April, 2023.

Alwis also restituted to the state $83,000 (about MK83 million) as part of a plea-bargain deal with the state.

Senior State Advocate Mathews Chione

When coming up with the fine, Chief Resident Magistrate Madalitso Chimwaza used the 1970s Exchange Control Act, which stipulates three years prison sentence or a fine of MK10,000 (about 10 dollars).

But the magistrate used the Fines Conversion Act to convert the MK10,00 to current monitory terms, which summed up to MK200,000.

Apparently, when passing judgement, the magistrate also complained about the fine and nature of the law and asked Parliament “to do something about it”.

When fining Alwis, the magistrate also considered, among others, the following mitigating factors: he restituted the money, committed the crime for the first time and that he did not waste the court’s time.

Senior State Advocate, Mathews Chione, promptly welcomed the court’s judgement, saying the state cannot fault the fine, for that is what the law states.

“So, we are happy with the conviction. The magistrate could not go beyond what the law prescribes,” Chione said.

Alwis’s accomplice on the charge sheet, Lin Huixin, a Chinese national, was earlier this month also fined MK200,000 on account that she was a first time offender and very young.

Alwis was formerly charged with laundering over MK500 million ($500,000) and dealing in foreign currency alongside three Chinese nationals—Lin Hao Yuan, Hua Qing Zhang and Lin Huixin.

But Alwis, unlike the three Chinese, had initially not pleaded guilty to all the charges.

However, state prosecutors dropped the money laundering charge and maintained the foreign currency one, which the Srilankan had faced alongside Lin Huixin.

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Che wiille
Che wiille
1 year ago

Some fines need to be reviewed

Charles Phiri
Charles Phiri
1 year ago

Hey what about the people who exchange foreign currency for local currency and who stand outside Chipiku / Game Store in Lilongwe? Do they have permission from the minister of Finance to deal in forex? If you go to a real forex bureau, they don’t have foreign currency to sell to you, but these people seem to have it and they conduct business in broad daylight just 100 meters away from 2 currency exchanges. If you go to buy foreign currency in both the exchange bureaus, they won’t have money. But these people seem to have money. So is the… Read more »

Allan Kumwenda
Allan Kumwenda
1 year ago

Lets hope dirty hands played their part

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