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Anti-Corruption Bureau targets Zuneth Sattar’s plot

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SATTAR—I have done
nothing wrong

The High Court sitting in Lilongwe has granted a preservation order to Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma, effectively stopping businessman Zuneth Sattar’s wife Tahera, his brother Sahzadh Rashid and their business partner Ahmed Abdul Rashid from conducting any business with plot number Bwaila 13/123.

The said piece of land, according to court documents, was acquired by Tahera, Sahzadh and Rashid through their company ARS Holdings.

“If you recall, we had issued restriction notices against over 80 plots and we have been carrying out investigations.

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“In this particular case, now that we have a preservation order from the court, forfeiture proceedings will follow,” Chizuma said Thursday and refused to comment further.

In a sworn statement presented before the court on behalf of Chizuma, ACB Senior Investigations Officer Shadreck Mpaso said the evidence collected and analysed by the bureau indicates that Bwaila plot 13/123 was obtained around April 2019 through an alleged fraudulent transfer of leasehold.

In the statement, some government officials have been accused of neglecting duty.

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Mpaso told the court that a non-existent law firm at the time was used to prepare lease agreement documents.

He added that the ACB established that parties to the deal impersonated one Christina Mlambuzi and presented her as the seller of the land.

“Mlambuzi denied ever having a plot, let alone transferring leasehold interest in any land to ARS Holdings. I believe that the name appearing in the transfer of lease agreement documents is a creature which was made to facilitate fraudulent disposal of plot no Bwaila 13/123,” Mpaso’s statement reads.

The ACB has also implicated an official from the Department of Lands who, it alleges, signed lease agreement forms on behalf of the Commissioner of Lands.

Conspicuously missing from the file is a tax clearance certificate which, he said, is a fundamental prerequisite in the legal transfer of lease.

“From the facts gathered, I verily believe that the offences of forgery and uttering a false document, signing a document without written authority and abuse of office were committed in the production of documents…,” the statement adds.

According to Mpaso, there is no document on file evidencing that the Commissioner of Lands delegated powers to someone to sign transfer of lease documents.

“Investigations into the acquisition of plot number Bwaila 13/123 by ARS Holdings are complete and have affirmed the allegations in the complaint that the plot was acquired through fraud, forgery, uttering false documents and tax evasion,” he adds.

But lawyer representing ARS Holdings, Michael Goba Chipeta, said the application used to obtain the order was done ex-partes such that him and his clients do not know yet what was presented before the court.

“Such orders are ordinarily granted where the property in issue is subject to investigations, the preservation order does what it exactly says: preserves the property so that it is not dealt with or disposed of pending said investigations,” he said.

A preservation order can be made against a convicted person or accused person who has not been convicted of an offence but there are reasonable grounds to believe that they committed an offence under the Financial Crimes Act.

The ACB has in recent months been investigating British businessman Sattar in collaboration with the National Crime Agency over various alleged dubious business contracts with the Government of Malawi’s ministries, departments and agencies.

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