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Cashgate funds recovery, 8 years later

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BANDA— We need specific legislation

Eight years have passed since Malawi recorded one of its worst incidences of plunder of public resources in government, but the government says it is still consolidating figures to understand how much of the loot has been recovered and ploughed back into the public purse.

“It’s an ongoing process with our colleagues at other law enforcement agencies such as Financial Intelligence Authority and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB),” Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni told The Daily Times.

The DPP is, together with ACB lawyers, prosecuting cases involving the theft of K24 billion from government coffers in 2013 in what has become known as Cashgate.

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Three years ago, the government announced that it had recovered K300 million, representing at least 3 percent of the looted money.

Asked to shed light on progress made so far, ACB Director General Martha Chizuma referred us to the office of the DPP.

Kayuni, on his part, said a lot of progress has been made towards the recovery of the stolen finances.

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“One thing that is clear is that the Confiscation Fund was opened by the government. We shall endeavour to fill that account to the brim pursuant to what the law directs us because, following a court order, forfeited assets are for the benefit of Malawians,” Kayuni says.

He, however, could not be drawn to comment on how much had been recovered so far, saying he could not speculate as the assets were in two categories.

“There are those assets which are preserved for disposal pending end of the trial and those forfeited to the government immediately, so you can’t lump up the two together,” Kayuni says.

Private practice lawyer Jai Banda has since called for the establishment of an Assets Forfeiture Unit which should specifically deal with such aspects as recovering stolen assets/proceeds of crime.

“The current legislation (Financial Crimes Act) provides that agencies such as FIA can attach some properties to crime and, therefore, [put them] up for forfeiture, but that’s how far the law has gone. We need specific legislation on forfeiture like in the past, when the government could unilaterally seize property linked to crime. That way, it will be easy for the government to recover crime-connected property,” Banda said.

The Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Assets Declarations (ODPOD) has also complained that some officers do not give full details of their assets, a development which affects tracking of property.

“We do verify declared assets through government registry and other means such as Malawi Housing Corporation, water boards, Road traffic and MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority]. Wherever the findings do not tally with what an officer has declared, we hand over the case to other agencies such as police and ACB as we\ do not have prosecutorial powers,” ODPOD spokesperson Tiyamike Phiri said.

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