In a dramatic twist of events, former President of the Republic, Peter Mutharika, has issued a statement expressing his “reluctance” to grant an interview to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in connection with the alleged abuse of his Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TPIN) when he was in office.
Initially, the ACB had announced it intended to engage Mutharika on July 20, 2021. The Bureau later rescheduled the interview to Tuesday, July 27, 2021 because Mutharika had sought more time to prepare.
But in a statement issued on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, the former President raises some serious allegations against the ACB, including faulting the graft-busting body on legal procedures.
“In August 2020, the Fiscal Police questioned me under caution regarding the use of my Personal Tax Identification Number (TPIN) during the time I was the President of Malawi. The matter related to the unauthorized use of my TPIN in the importation of cement by other people. I issued a statement that clarified my position in that matter denying my involvement in the importation of cement.
“Surprisingly, the ACB who never questioned me in any way froze my accounts citing the alleged use or misuse of my TPIN in that transaction. You continued to keep the accounts frozen for over 270 days until you could no longer renew the Restriction Notice that froze the accounts. During that long period, I was not allowed to access the accounts even for my reasonable living expenses or to pay my bills,” APM writes, adding that he was neither charged nor informed why he was “subjected to that kind of treatment”.
Mutharika expresses gratitude to the courts for rejecting what he calls ACB’s “underhand tactics” following the Bureau’s application to seek a Preservation Order under the Financial Crimes Act to keep the accounts frozen.
Turning to the decision by the ACB to ‘interview’ him, APM, as Mutharika is fondly called by his adorers, argues the Bureau cannot interview him without informing him about the offences he has committed.
Mutharika claims the move is part of ACB’s “continued persecution and harassment” intended to humiliate and taunt him, psychologically.
“It is strange that an institution like ACB with accusatorial and investigative powers would seek to interview me without disclosing the nature of offences that I am accused of. In view of the previous conduct of the ACB towards me, I am reluctant to grant this interview.
“In my view, all this is a sustained political witch-hunt by a State institution. If I, as a former Head of State must be called to answer these questions, then fairness demands that every previous President and Vice President now living must be called upon to explain how their TPIN has been used,” demands APM.
He informs the ACB that for the cited reasons and out of courtesy to the Bureau, he will still listen to the questions “if you decide to proceed” but that he will exercise his right to remain silent unless he is informed that he has committed any offence.
APM concludes: “Thereafter, I will seek legal advice on how best to respond to the questions and it is only then that I may consider to respond to all or any of your questions”.
It is not yet clear what will ACB’s next move be following APM’s stand. The Bureau’s Principal Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala had not yet responded to our questionnaire on the matter when we published this article.
In an interview, a legal expert, who could not be named, said Mutharika’s decision to refuse to be interviewed may work against him because he is losing an opportunity to explain himself with regard to the TPIN matter.
He said it is a standard procedure for law enforcement agencies to interview an individual in the course of an investigation merely to establish facts without informing them of an offence because they are deemed innocent until proven guilty.
“The reason that he should be told the offence he has committed first before being interviewed may be wrong. The decision to remain silent would be in exercise of his right, which is very much acceptable,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :