Malawi fertilizer scandal: Optichem manager arrested

Police in Malawi’s southern region of Mangochi continue netting more people in connection to the scandal in which they impounded a lorry which carried 600 bags of subsidized fertilizers at some of which were found mixed with sand during offloading at Katuli depot.

The police had first arrested a driver of the Simama Transport which carried the fertilizers from Blantyre, and his two assistants. They later arrested the driver of another vehicle which transferred the fertilizers from Optichem offices which was later loaded into Simama’s lorry.

As investigations intensifies, law enforcers arrested Chiyembekezo Akimu, who operates a hardware business at Mangochi market, after being suspected of using his vehicle to carry sand which was used to mix with fertilizers. Akimu was immediately released without charge but his lorry remains at Mulanje police station.

However, on Monday,  the police arrested production manager of the fertilizers manufacturing company Optichem Malawi limited Stanley Synoden for being suspect of conniving with the four people already arrested to mix the sand with fertilizers during the packaging.

Fertiliser subsidy programme in Malawi riddled with corruption

Police sources say Synoden’s arrest comes after the sand samples which were being tested at Bvumbwe research Station proved that the sand mixed with fertilizers was the same as the one which was found at Optichem factory in Blantyre.

Synoden is accused of buying bags of rice for two of criminal investigations officers one of which is detective Divala, from Blantyre when they took him to Mulanje to confirm reports that some bags of subsidized fertilizers there was found mix with sand.

“It is believed that the gesture toward the two police detectives was aimed to deter them from going further with investigations.”

In the preliminary investigations into the issue which implicated Simama Transport and Optichem, Optichem officials confirmed that the sand was similar to the one they use during the production process but denied the ropes used to stitch up the sacks.

The outgoing officer in charge for Mangochi Police Ephraim Chipojola has confirmed of the arrest saying Synoden has been transferred from Blantyre where he was arrested to Mangochi police station where he is expected to be charged after investigations are complete.

The Irish Government, one of Malawi’s key donors in the Farm Input Subsidy (Fisp) Programme, has described the recent scandal where fertilizer was found mixed with sand as ‘disturbing,’ reminding Malawi to avoid abuse and waste of taxpayers’ money.

Ireland has since asked the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to intensify monitoring process as a way of flushing out Fisp abuse, according to published report.

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