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Cashgate item sales hit snag

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Years after confiscating property worth billions of Kwacha from some of the people convicted of looting money through Cashgate, the plunder of public funds at Capital Hill, the government is struggling to sell the items, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni has disclosed.

Cashgate cases hit a pinnacle in 2013, when some suspects were convicted, resulting in confiscation of some property.

Kayuni told The Daily Times that confiscated Cashgate property has, over time, lost value due to a long period of idling.

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He, however, said the government would re-advertise the property confiscated from Cashgate convicts Oswald Lutepo and others.

“We have been unable to dispose of some of the Cashgate properties due to low bids and they will have to be re-advertised. PPDA [Public Procurements and Disposal of Assets Authority] has just cleared us yesterday [Tuesday] to re-advertise the properties that failed the initial process.

“We are, however, endeavouring to bring to speed disposal processes with the help of PPDA,” he said.

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In January this year, the government put on auction properties belonging to Lutepo, Theresa Senzani and Leonard Kalonga, valued at around K1.4 billion.

Among other things, Lutepo’s property which included a house, his factory in Blantyre and a K50 million bail bond, all valued at K600 million, were reclaimed by the State.

Senzani restituted a house worth K340 million while Kalonga’s property was valued at K500 million.

Kayuni said asset recovery is an expensive process but that, if well-executed, it would help Malawians get back value for the money they lost.

Kayuni said they have a few more cases where accused persons have stepped forward and are willing to restitute what Malawians lost.

“Slowly the Confiscation Fund is bumping up and, at an appropriate time, the government will announce how much has been collected in the fund. Pursuant to the coordination strategy for law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General, the DPP, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Financial Intelligence Authority, the [Malawi] Police [Service] and the Reserve Bank of Malawi are working hard to process all avenues, making sure that there is value in the confiscation fund.

“We have Cashgate proceeds, wildlife and forestry offenses, forex externalisation and money laundering restitutions ongoing in accordance with the law. For your information, among the other properties we have 53 vehicles seized from forestry and wildlife crimes. Those [that are] on court order [too] will go on sale,” the DPP said.

In general terms, Kayuni said the State is making progress on Cashgate cases which date back to 2013.

“[In terms of] the [Paul] Mphwiyo matter, if all variables remain constant, we are closing the whole case this month end. As you might recall, this is Mphwiyo and 18 others. We only have one week hearing to finish it and wait for judgement. We are sitting again from 21 to 24th June as last sitting in this matter.

“In the other Cashgate cases, there is also progress, albeit slow, due to several factors but we endeavour to move all cases up to speed and fruitful conclusion,” he said.

Social commentator Victor Chipofya said the government has to appoint an independent entity to facilitate the sale of the confiscated property, saying this would ensure transparency and accountability.

“They [those in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions] can easily be abused. Nobody knows why those items have depreciated.

“If you talk about motor vehicles for example, they could be vandalised. Who is the insurer to ensure that that those things are being protected?” he queried.

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