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AHCX soya export deal courts controversy

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A business deal between Auction Holdings Commodity Exchange (AHCX) and a firm known as Lampat Engineering, Machinery and Construction to supply soya beans to a Botswana company has become a bone of contention between the two parties who accuse each other of cheating.

It all started when Lampat won a contract to supply 300 metric tonnes of soya beans worth $204,000 to Food Bostwana.

The deal was facilitated in February 2016 by a Lusaka-based Zambian national, Owen Chipewo, who calls himself a freelance international marketing agent.

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Malawi News understands that when Lampat won the contract, it did not have enough money to procure the required quantities of soya beans for the supply.

It therefore entered a deal with AHCX to supply the commodity on their behalf.

One of the conditions of the agreement provided that Food Bostwana would pay the money directly into AHCXL’s account.

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According to written correspondences which we have seen, the two companies had not formally finalised their contract even though they had already dispatched the commodity to Bostwana in a bid to meet supply deadlines.

The correspondences also indicate that a Boby Joseph of Food Bostwana wrote Chipewo immediately after arrival of the consignment in Bostwana that it was sub-standard and did not comply with the requirements as per contract.

In reaction, Chipewo heaped the blame on AHCX.

“Since the product has been rejected for failing to meet the standards specified in the contract, I have been advised to inform you that both the contract and the Letter of Credit have been cancelled and that the rejected consignment must be retrieved from Food Bostwana at your cost,” reads part of the correspondence from Chipewo to Operations Director for Lampat, Patrick Maseko, copied to AHCX general manager, Davis Manyenje.

In his response to Chipewo’s communication, Manyenje said the company was just in a rescue operation on a contract which was headed for default outright.

“The contract document that was shared to us didn’t provide for bag labelling. Consequently, AHCX wouldn’t be the appropriate party to suffer such a consequence. We expect full payment for the consignment. Urgently send us confirmation of full remittance as we have depositors to pay,” reads part of his response.

Maseko asked for delivery notes, invoices and any other receipts tendered to food Botswana by AHCX upon soya beans’ deliveries.

But he later refused to sign a contract document in disagreement with the payment AHCX proposed to give to Lampat.

At this point Lampat also had written Food Botswana’s bankers not to transfer any amount to AHCX accounts but rather directly to their account.

Technical Director for Lampat, Robert Ngozo, told Malawi News on Thursday that their company suspects that AHCX wanted to hijack their contract as they deliberately delayed the ceding of their contract and only released it for Lampat to sign after the consignment had reached Botswana.

“Even though Food Botswana initially wanted to cancel the contract due to the quality of soya they got, they still agreed to buy at a cheaper price but they said they will pay Lampat because they are not in contract with AHCX. This is why they reported the matter to police because we refused to sign for their terms in the contract which does not benefit us in any way,” Ngozo said.

He added that his partner [Patrick Maseko] was arrested on Monday this week after AHCX reported the matter to police and he was still in police custody at the time of the interview on Thursday.

“I’m told he has been charged with theft of goods (Soya) by trick,” Ngozo said.

However, AHCX Communications Manager, Thom Khanje, said they were not in a position to give details just yet.

“We cannot comment on this issue now to avoid jeopardising investigations by the Police who are handling the matter following our complaint last week, as we believe that there is an attempt to dupe us in this transaction,” Khanje said.

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