The Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court has jailed former government accounts assistant Victor Sithole to nine years impronment for the so-called “Cashgate” affair – the worst financial scandal in the country’s history.
The court found Sithole, 27 guilty on the three counts involving money found in his possession amounting to K112 million, $31 850 and 122 000 rands in September last year, which the prosecution wants forfeited to government.
Passing his judgement on Tuesday Senior Magistrate Patrick Chirwa said it would “a mockery of Justice” to hand out suspended sentence to such an offence.
Chirwa pointed out Sithole didn’t deserve short term because he’s found culpable and sentencing below six years would be manifestly inadequate.
“I have ruled out the possibility of a fine, only a custodial sentence should be meted out here. It would also be a mockery of justice to hand out a suspended sentence. However, the maximum sentences are reserved for the worst of offenders, but the offender does not deserve a short-term because of his culpability in these offences,” said Chirwa.
Sithole has been sentenced to one year imprisonment for illegal possession of foreign currency (forex), another one year for possession of property suspected to have been stolen and seven years for money laundering.
Sentences will run consecutively , meaning he will serve nine years jail term.
His wife, Tamanda, openly sobbed in the arms of his sister when Chirwa pronounced Sithole’s fate.
Sithole was being represented in the matter by lawyer Necton Mhura, but did not appear during sentencing as he has been appointed Malawi diplomat in United States.
Lawyer Ted Roka who took over from Mhura described the sentence as “harsh” saying the court should have made the sentence to run concurrently as per Section 17 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code or even consider suspending the sentence since he had already spent one year in custody.
State prosecutor on Cashgate cases, private practice lawyer Kamudoni Nyasulu, said the sentence was “appropriate.”
Nyasulu said the convicted Sithole had neglected his civic duty by running unregistered businesses, ending up with unexplained millions which he used to finance a lavish lifestyle not befitting his financial status.
He said Sithole had testified that he used part of the money to pay three months advance rental totalling K750 000 for a house in Area 47; paid K200 000 each to seven people to buy produce for him and owned a Toyota Vitz, where some of the money was found.
Nyasalu also wanted to the court to forfeit the seized money to government and that the State is also considering applying to court to recover from the convict the tainted money amounting to K2.1 million and the vehicle -Toyota Vitz.
Chief cashgate suspect Oswald Lutepo once claimed the said MK112 million found with Sithole to be his and it is this claim that led to the revelation that his IPS company had received over MK2 billion from government without supplying any goods or services. He claimed in court that his IPS had a contract with Agrifeeds for the supply of white maize and that the sum of MK112 million was withdrawn from IPS.
At least 70 people, including former justice minister Ralph Kasambara, have been arrested over “Cashgate” after an audit revealed that about K20 billion had been skimmed from the government payment system in 2013.
Businessmen and politicians are alleged to have connived with civil servants to make payments for goods and services that were never delivered.
Western donor nations and agencies, which provide 40% of Malawi’s budget, pulled the plug on vital aid worth around $150m in reaction to the scandal.
Allegations of the massive looting of government money became public following the MK112 million which was found with Sithole in August 2013 and then the shooting of the finance ministry’s then budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :