Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) manager has told Chief Resident Magistrate Court sitting at the central bank that former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda is not among those given licence to keep thousands of dollars and millions of Kwachas found by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) stashed inside suitcases hidden in the bedroom of his house during a search.
Chaponda being accused of corruption in the procurement of maize from Zambia.
Prosecution witness Griffin Phiri, Exchange Control Monitoring and Statistics Manager at RBM said only the central bank is mandated to give a permit to keep foreign currency and that none was given to Chaponda.
But Chaponda claims to have a licence of possession of foreign currency that he obtained from Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe in 2004.
ACB lead prosecutor, Macmillan Chakhala, said a document submitted by Chaponda through his legal team has a signature of Gondwe.
But in his testimony, Phiri said fiscal chief can only seek guidance from the central bank on the issuance of a permit for an individual to keep forex.
“For foreign exchange dealership and individuals, a minister of finance cannot issue a licence. That has never happened before,” Phiri told the court.
Also testifying, ACB investigator Jack Banda told the court that before a search at Chaponda’s Area 43 sprawling residence in Lilongwe, another ACB investigator Kondwani Zulu enquired from the former minister if he had any guns or cash in the House.
Banda said he cautioned Chaponda that he had a right to remain silent and that anything he could say “may be given in evidence.”
He said a search in the House, they found money in various currencies and they were told by Chaponda that the money was realised from a Blue Night function which the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held in Blantyre.
Chaponda told the bureau that the money belongs to DPP but when graft-busting body inquired from DPP treasurer-general Henry Mussa, also Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and Nicholas Dausi, a senior DPP member and Minister of Information and Communications Technology, about the issue, they both denied that the money was realised from the Blue Night.
Between US$58,000 and MK124 million in cash was found after a search at Chaponda’s home last year.
Zulu, a fourth witness for ACB, testified that the serial numbers of the dollars were very close as if they were withdrawn at the same time.
“The Malawi kwachas were in stacks with Standard Bank and National Bank stamps dated November 2016,” he said.
“We found money in what seemingly looked like the master bedroom. He told us the Malawi kwachas were monies that he changed from US dollars he withdrew from his pension account every time he went outside the country. We asked for receipts but he did not produce any,” Zulu said.
Meanwhile, Chief Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotcha, who is hearing the case, has subpoenaed Finance Minister Gondwe to testify in court on the authenticity of the forex permit bearing his signature which has been tendered by his lawyers.
The cash stashed in suitcases reminds Malawians of the biggest corruption scandal called ‘Cashgate’ scam which involved fraudulent government payments for services not rendered and for “ghost pensions” to fictional government retirees.
Corrupt officials pocketed the money, using it to buy smart cars and mansions — or simply stuffed bundles of US dollars and Malawi kwacha in car boots, handbags and pillowcases, hence the “cash” in “Cashgate.
Chaponda is answering three charges which include giving false information to ACB, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency. He has constantly denied any wrong doing.
Political commentators have said the case of Chaponda, who is DPP vice-president responsible for its Southern Region, signifies the existence of high-level corruption in government in view of the position that he holds in the party and held in government before his dismissal.
The former minister, who is Mulanje South West member of Parliament (MP), denies any wrong doing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :