Malawi court sets Friday for sentencing of SriLankan in foreign currency offence

The Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court has set Friday, 28th April, 2023, for sentencing of SriLankan national Kankanige Anura Piyaratana Alwis, after he finally pleaded guilty to the charge of dealing in foreign currency on Wednesday, 26th April, 2023.

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.

Alwis in a black mask standing among his lawyers

However, state prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the money laundering charge and maintained the foreign currency one, which the SriLankan had faced alongside Lin Huixin. He promptly pleaded guilty to the amended charge.

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

He has, apparently, taken the path of the Chinese, who had promptly pleaded guilty in a plea-bargain deal, which also included restitution of money they had laundered.

As a result, Lin Hao Yuan and Hua Qing Zhang 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 the convicts arrest in July, 2021.

On the other hand, Lin Huixin was fined MK200,000 and in default serve 12 months imprisonment.

The amended dealing in foreign currency charge against Alwis reads 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”.

Following the sealing of the plea-bargain deal, Alwis lawyers on Wednesday asked state prosecutors not to, among other things, ask for a custodial sentence.

On the other hand, prosecutors are reported to have said that even though a non-custodial sentence is ideal following the plea-bargain deal, Alwis still needs to pay a hefty fine, much higher than what Lin Huixin paid in the same offence.

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