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Anti-Corruption Bureau, Director of Public Prosecution cross paths again

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Steven Kayuni

Madam Director, our minds and acts are at cross-purpose here. ACB is on one side starting a matter on TPIN [of former president Peter Mutharika] and other agencies are on the other side with an ongoing trial on the same TPIN – DPP Steven Kayuni

On Thursday, Members of Parliament passed a motion allowing the tabling of a bill which seeks to amend the Corrupt Practices Act so that it gives the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) powers to prosecute without seeking the consent of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The trigger to this came in January this year when DPP Steve Kayuni refused to grant the ACB consent to prosecute businessman Zuneth Sattar’s agent Kumar Sreedharan, also known as Ashok Nair, and four others.

Kayuni denied the consent on the grounds that ACB had not provided supporting documents.

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The clash stirred public interest and, despite interventions for a truce between the two, it would seem the fallout has not ended with new revelations on professional differences.

In the latest case, Kayuni accuses the ACB of working in isolation on a cement importation case in which some public officials are alleged to have used former president Peter Mutharika’s TPIN to import the commodity duty-free.

The DPP further asks ACB Director General Martha Chizuma to coordinate and work with other law enforcement agencies to succeed on the investigation of the case.

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In a letter dated July 19, 2022 signed by Kayuni, reference number DPP/ACB/29V and copied Justice Minister, Titus Mvalo and Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, Kayuni requests Chizuma to a joint meeting with all agencies involved on the case.

He further accuses the bureau for adopting an approach that he says has embarrassed other law enforcement agencies.

“With the way ACB has conducted itself lately, it is clear that there was no cross-checking. Madam, Director, our minds and acts are at cross-purpose here. ACB is on one side starting a matter on TPIN and other agencies are on the other side with an ongoing trial on the same TPIN,” reads part of the letter.

In July 2020, police arrested a bodyguard of the former President, Norman Chisale, and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner, Roza Mbilizi, on the matter.

Early this month, ACB arrested Mbilizi again and two other officials, Fredrick Mpeusa (former manager for Customs and Excise) and Abigail Kawamba (deputy commissioner responsible for enforcement and operations) for their alleged involvement in the cement importation case.

In its statement, ACB said investigations on the matter commenced in August 2020.

While pleading with the anti-corruption agencies to draw lessons of disjointed operations in cash-gate in his letter, the DPP has called upon all agencies in the cement importation case to desist from trying to out-smart each other on the matter.

No single agency can win fight against criminality, says Kayuni.

The DPP reveals in the letter that ACB also turned down an invitation to attend a “pre-trail TPIN/Cement-gate meeting” that took place in April this year at Mponela in Dowa.

“An opportunity to salvage the action was missed by your good office when an invitation to attend the pre-trial TPIN/Cement- gate meeting in Mponela was turned by your good office. Your good office clearly excused yourself and decided what you termed ‘your own angle’ of the TPIN/Cement gate trial,” further reads the letter.

In response to our query, spokesperson for the ACB, Egritta Ndala, said Chizuma would respond to the DDP’s letter formally and not through the media.

Executive director for the Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Willy Kambwandira has described the revelations as an indication of atmosphere of mistrust among the anti-corruption agencies.

“It is clear from the letter that there is an atmosphere of mistrust among these agencies. We are not surprised though as the conduct of some of the agencies appear to be compromised and bent at frustrating the fight against corruption.

“Moving forward, it is very important for the Minister of Justice to swiftly move in to address the situation. There is need for all the agencies to coordinate and work together on the matter if we are to win the case,” Kambwandira said.

The earlier fallout between the two even attracted the reaction of President Lazarus Chakwera when he directed Mvalo to intervene to ensure improved working relationship between the two.

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