Former president Peter Mutharika has denied instructing his personal bodyguard Norman Chisale for the controversial importation of K5 billion worth of cement allegedly using Mutharika duty-free status for sitting presidents.
Chisale was arrested by Fiscal Police and faces fraud and money laundering charges as he is alleged to have used Mutharika’s taxpayer identification number to facilitate the transactions.
According to particulars of the offences, Chisale during the years 2018 and 2019 “by deceit or other fraudulent means imported 800 000 bags of cement without paying duty thereby causing a pecuniary detriment of 5 billion Malawi kwacha to the Government of Malawi.”
But in a statement released on Friday and made available to Nyasa Times, former president Mutharika appears to be distancing himself to the importation of the cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe using the duty free status that presidents enjoy to import goods for personal use.
Reads the statement signed by Linda Salanjira the personal secretary to Mutharika denied to have bought nor instructed anyone to buy or import the cement in question.
“Accordingly, the former president did not, as he could not, request the Malawi Revenue Authority to invoke any of his privileges to clear the alleged consignment of cement duty- free.
“Further, the former President was never at any point undertaking any construction project (s) requiring such substantial volumes of cement,” reads the statement in part.
Fiscal Police also arrested businessperson Shaffe Chunara, owner of Prestige Imports and Exports, in connection with the controversial K5 billion duty-free cement saga.
Chunara reportedly told the police “the truth” on how he got the cement that impliucates the former president’s aides and MRA.
But Mutharika in a statement said: “In any event, the former president does not operate any business to sell cement on retail or wholesale.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the former president did not have any dealings with the alleged cement traders either personally or through a third party.”
Written correspondence between State Residences and MRA indicated that through former director general of State Residences Peter Mukhito, Mutharika asked the public tax collector to facilitate clearance of the cement duty-free.
In his statement, Mutharika spears to be distancing himself from the cement-gate, paying way for his personal legal defence.
Observers say Mutharika could not be called as a witness to testify against his aides because the former president is saying he is a victim of identity fraud.
Police also arrested former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi in connection with cement-gate scandal.
Before Mutharika was ousted from power in the June 23 fresh presidential election, State House and MRA on June 16 justified the transaction as “within the law”, as it was for personal use.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :