Malawi court jails Chinese nationals for laundering MK500m

The Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court on Wednesday, 5th April 2023, jailed two of the three Chinese nationals convicted of serious money laundering in excess of MK500 million (about $500,000), among other charges.

Lin Hao Yuan and Hua Qing Zhang—a couple—were sentenced to eight and six years imprisonment on first and second count of money laundering, respectively. The sentences, according to the court, are running concurrently, from the date of their arrest in July, 2021.

Their daughter, 25 year old Lin Huixin was fined MK200,000 and in default serve 12 months imprisonment.

The three had promptly pleaded guilty to the charges on 31st January, 2023, as part of plea-bargain, which also includes restitution of money they had laundered.

According to the charge sheet, the first charge of money laundering is contrary to section 42 (1) (b) of the Financial Crimes Act and reads:

“Lin Huixin, Li Hao Yuan and Hua Qin Zhang between 1st September 2017 and 26th November 2020, in the City of Lilongwe, disguised the true nature of the sum of K379, 408, 048.79 knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the same represents proceeds of crime by depositing and transacting with the said cash through account number 9100000342170 of Moni International Limited domiciled at Standard Bank Malawi, Capital City Branch”.

Senior State Advocate Mathews Chione

The second charge of money laundering is contrary to section 42 (1) (a) of the Financial Crimes Act and states:

“Lin Huixin, Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis, Li Hao Yuan and Hua Qin Zhang between 5th December 2017 and January 2021, at Marina Casino in the City of Lilongwe, converted K128, 590,518.00 into gambling chips knowing or having reason to believe that it directly or indirectly derived from the proceeds of crime”.

There is also the offence of dealing in foreign currency, which Lin Huixin was answering with a Srilankan national Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis. It reads as follows:

“Lin Huixin and 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 each other amounting to United States Dollars 310, 000.00”.

When sentencing Lin Hao Yuan and Hua Qing Zhang, Chief Resident Magistrate Madalitso Chimwaza, observed that the amount the two were involved in laundering was staggering for a small economy of Malawi and, therefore, the two needed a prescribed maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The magistrate, however, said the court was lenient with the two because they had, among other things, paid back MK200 million and promptly pleaded guilty.

On Lin Huixin, the court noted that she is “a first offender and young, with a whole future ahead”.

Senior state advocate, Mathews Chione, promptly and happily welcomed the sentences, saying “the punishment will deter other would-be offenders”.

The three Chinese were accused alongside a Srilankan national Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against him. Sources close to his case say he is also considering plea-bargain.

Otherwise state prosecutors have reportedly lined up 10 witnesses to testify against him.

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