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Anti-Corruption Bureau engages private lawyer in police food rations case

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The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has engaged private-practice lawyer Clement Mwala to prosecute a case in which businessman Zameer Karim and two other suspects (one deceased) are being accused of swindling government money in excess of K4.8 billion.

Karim, Senior Superintendent Grant Kachingwe and the late Innocent Botomani who was Director of Finance at the Malawi Police Service (MPS) are being accused of conspiring to defraud government through inflated prices in a food rations contract.

Mwala confirmed his engagement when he declined taking questions from the media after appearing before Justice Annabel Mtalimanja on his second day of prosecuting the matter.

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The matter involves a K2.1 billion contract and another one valued at K2.3 billion which was later adjusted to K2.7 billion under alleged suspicious circumstances.

“Report what has transpired in court. With the current terms of my contract with the bureau I can’t grant interviews,” Mwala said.

He has so far paraded three witnesses Samson George, a senior human resource and planning officer for MPS, Frank Phiri, an assistant examiner from the office of the registrar general and former Inspector General (IG) of Police Lexten Kachama.

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Among other things, Kachama, who was the IG during the time the alleged offenses were committed, Wednesday continued to “substantiate” his earlier claims that the contract was awarded to Karim’s Pioneer Investments before bid documents were submitted.

On the K2.7 billion one, the former police boss told the court that midway the contract period Karim requested for an upward price adjustment citing depreciation of the kwacha after payment had already been done.

“On November 17, 2015 a letter was written from the office of the IG to the Secretary to Treasury indicating [ST] completion of contract for 500,000 food rations and asked for a price adjustment from around K3,995 per pack to K4,475 per pack and yet by August 10, 2015, a payment had already been made to Pioneer Investments through various vouchers,” Kachama said.

He claimed that, however, as an IG at the time, he was not aware of the correspondence between MPS [by Botomani] and the office of the ST and that it was the first time for him to see the said letter in court.

Kachama then said some of the payment vouchers were signed by the late Botomani, a Mr Kamoto and another person.

In his testimony the former police boss also alleged that the contract price was raised by 20 percent against the five percent which is permissible by the country’s procurement laws, thereby raising the figure to K2,793,875,000 from the initial K2.3 billion.

“According to a delivery letter of August 5, 2015, the delivery of goods started before an approval for price adjustment was granted, telling from the dates,” Kachama said.

The ex-IG then presented in court six invoices in which a pair contained same reference numbers but bore different amounts of payments made thereby raising fears of inflated figures.

For instance invoice number 0112 was on September 8, 2015 issued for a payment of K258,164,800 but was on August 11, 2015 issued for K268,136,400.

In his comment, one of the defence lawyers Madalitso Kausi, who is representing Kachingwe, said they are fine with the proceedings so far and that at an appropriate time, they are ready to cross-examine the witnesses.

On Tuesday, Justice Mtalimanja ordered that the State should stop using any direct evidence against Botomani since he cannot defend himself being late.

According to the charge sheet, Botomani and Kachingwe are being accused of conspiring to use public office to advantage Karim.

Karim is being charged with money laundering and theft of K466 million.

Kachingwe has also been charged with money laundering and two forgery charges in which he is being accused to have forged a manual payment voucher as well as a systems payment voucher.

The suspects were arrested in 2018 but have been on bail.

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