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Anti-Corruption Bureau mum on frozen amounts

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The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has kept a tight lid on the amount of money it has frozen in the accounts of former president Peter Mutharika, former first lady Gertrude Mutharika, former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Commissioner General Roza Mbilizi and Mutharika’s top security aide, Norman Chisale.

The bank accounts were recently frozen in connection with the duty free importation of 1,200,000 bags of cement worth K5 billion from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In an interview Friday, ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba said the bureau would not be comfortable to disclose the figure because the accounts are personal and as such, not all the money in the accounts could be linked to the cement saga.

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“We are still analysing the accounts. The whole purpose was to preserve the money in the account. In our investigations, we want to verify the source of the money so we cannot disclose the amount of money in the accounts because that will create an impression that all the money was linked to the cement issue,” he said.

However, since the matter was reported in our previous edition last week, people on social media have been speculating that the graft bursting body has frozen about K140 billion.

Last week, a source within the bureau who asked for anonymity told Malawi News the bureau froze the accounts after it had noticed strange withdraws in the course of its investigations.

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“We have frozen two Mutharika accounts, one that is solely owned by the former president and another; a joint account with his wife, one account for Chisale and three accounts for Roza Mbilizi at NBS, National Bank and Standard Bank.

“The accounts have been frozen so that the bureau is able to finalise its investigations on the matter,” our source said.

The source could equally not disclose the actual amount in the frozen accounts but was quick to say the money is a lot.

“I do not have the figure off my head but it is a lot of money I can confirm this to you,” the source said.

Mutharika is entangled in the cement saga where his personal bodyguard Chisale, former Chief of Staff for State Residences, Peter Mukhitho and Lilongwe based businessman Ahmed Chunara were arrested on allegations that they imported about 1.2 million bags of cement using Mutharika’s Taxpayer Identification Number (TPIN).

About two weeks ago, police briefly arrested Mukhito in connection with the matter.

According to sources, Mukhito was arrested partly because he is the one who authored a letter to MRA, instructing the revenue-collecting body to clear duty free the bags of cement that were bought at K5 billion, and were said to have been bought for Mutharika’s personal use.

Bob Mtekama, who until his death recently was Head of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for Malawi Police Service, led a team that interrogated Mutharika at his retirement home in Mangochi about two weeks ago on his involvement in the issue.

However, Mutharika denied any involvement and he issued a press release, saying he had learnt with shock that MRA approved the clearance of duty free cement, using his TPIN.

In the initial transaction in November 2018, the former president bought 20 000 metric tonnes (MT) or 200 000 bags of cement worth $2 240 000 (about K1.68 billion) from PTC Zimbabwe Limited duty-free. In the second transaction in July 2019, Mutharika purchased the same quantity from Prestige Export based at Chipata in Zambia.

Ironically, the former president was importing the cement after launching the Buy Malawian Strategy (BMS)—a Malawi Government-spearheaded campaign supported by donors such as the UNDP—in April 2016 aimed at boosting local initiatives.

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