Paladin reports Malawi VP Kachali to ACB over alleged ‘extortion’

Australian uranium miner, Paladin Energy Limited, operators of the Kayerekera mine in Karonga district has lodged an official complaint with Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) following allegations that Malawi’s vice president Khumbo Kachali  through intermediaries had solicited US$1 million (about MK360 million) ‘gift’ from the company.

Nyasa Times last year reported that a senior government official was soliciting bribes from Paladin. An investigation on the matter has been ongoing.  Nyasa Times asked General Manager for International Affairs Greg Walker about the allegations.

Walker confirmed there were advances made to Paladin that the company should palm-oil the powers that be.

He said Paladin was advised by a journalist (whose identity has been reported to Anti Corruption Bureau –ACB) that he allegedly was approached by ruling People’s Party representative suggesting that a message be conveyed to the Company “indicating that we ought to provide financial support to the current government as we allegedly had done for the former government.”

Greg Walker of Paladin: Reported  to ACB
Greg Walker of Paladin: Reported to ACB

Walker reiterated that Paladin’s Corporate Governance Policy prohibits payments (either bribes or donations) to politicians or political parties.“Paladin had not done so with the DPP and would not do so now with the People’s Party. I made this position very clear at the time and I reiterate it now,” he said.

Walker said in a written response “no direct approach was made to the Company, but in light of the seriousness of the allegation, I sought legal advice on what course of action Paladin should take in these circumstances.”

Walker said the first advances for soliciting bribes were around mid-October 2012 and then there were allegedly a couple of follow-up calls.

He said at first he reported the matter to the Director of Mining, Charles Kaphwiyo.

“The circumstances of the matter were unusual, insofar as no direct contact was made by the cited political figure to the Company. The message was conveyed via a third party, so the information may or may not have been factual and the named individual may well have had no knowledge of the approach being made in his or her name,” said Walker.

“The suggestion was also of a ‘gift’ and not a payment in exchange for a specific service such that it would constitute a bribe, so the issue was not as clear cut as you imply. I sought legal advice as to what was the proper cause of action for the Company to take in such circumstances. In fact, the advice was that the approach was of such a tenuous nature that there was no requirement in law for the Company to draw it to the attention of the ACB.”

Paladin boss also confirmed that he had a meeting with ACB director Justice Rizine Mzikamanda, on 06 December 2012 where he was assured that the bureau will determine whether an investigation could be launched or not.

“I also requested the ACB to investigate the allegations made against Paladin by MP Lifred Nawena, who defamed Paladin and Company executives by claiming in the National Assembly to have evidence of wrong-doing by the Company, yet has not made a formal complaint against the Company nor presented his ‘evidence’ to the ACB,” Walker said.

However, under Malawi’s laws, Parliament is a privileged institution hence MPs have immunity from prosecution regarding utterances they make during the sitting of the National Assembly.

But Malawi’s Veep Khumbo Kachali through his Public Relations Officer Kondwani Munthali has rubbished the allegations saying “they do not make sense and lacks logic”.

“This is one of the many allegations many people hallucinate about and later translate their figment of imagination into a moving picture,” said Munthali.

“How can a Vice President use a journalist or let alone a human being of whatever category as an intermediary to a company that he has never had any business with, he does not speak to and has never interacted with formally or informally,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.

Malawi Government is increasingly under pressure from various stakeholders to renegotiate the contract for uranium mining investment at Kayelekera. But Paladin has argued that Malawi cannot currently renegotiate the mining deal, saying doing so would be breaching the provisions of the agreement.

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