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Chunara witness in K5 billion cement scandal

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JAMES KADADZERA

Prestige Import and Export owner, Mahmed Shafee Ahmed Chunara will be state witness and not a suspect in the K5 billion cement saga that former president Peter Mutharika’s security aide Norman Chisale and others are accused to have masterminded using the former president’s duty free status.

Our highly placed sources very close to the matter, who confided in us, said Chunara voluntarily blew the whistle on the matter as soon as the new Tonse Alliance came to power after the June 23 elections hence the decision to make him state witness in the case.

“He called the authorities to alert them of what was happening and how he was used in the whole enterprise. The Police interviewed and recorded his statement and took other pieces of evidence,” our source said.

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According to another source, Chunara handed himself over to police, saying all these are the reasons why he was not handcuffed on his way to court as it was observed by some people on social media.

“He went to the police where he gave his statements on the matter and said he would be a state witness claiming he was simply getting instructions from the former government’s top officials,” our source said.

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Reyneck Matemba said he could not comment on the matter as it is being handled by the Police.

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“We are not aware of that; it is not ACB handling that even during our press briefing [on Monday] when someone asked me I told them to ask the Police.

We do not know anything, find out from the Police,” he said.

Matemba said the case was spilt into two; the criminal element which the Police are handling and abuse of office which ACB is pursuing hence his insistence that the Police or the Director of Public Prosecutions should comment on the decision to use Chunara as state witness.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the issue is under investigations and as such, the Police would not be in a position to give out such information.

“The issue is still under investigations so because it is still under investigations we cannot come out in the open and say he will be a state witness or not. Chunara was arrested and he appeared before the court where he was given bail, meaning he is a suspect.

“So this issue is under investigation…the suspects in this issue you know them and you know that when investigations are concluded, the matter is referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for perusal and also for legal advice, but as at now, we are still on the investigation stage,” he said.

Chunara said the matter is still under investigations, adding he was not aware of the matter in question.

“I do not know anything, it is still under investigation…they are still asking questions so how can I be a state witness?” he said.

Chisale, former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Commissioner Roza Mbillizi and former Director of State Residences Peter Mukhitho are accused of importing duty free 1,200,000 bags of Cement worth K5 billion from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Last month, MRA demanded about K1.3 billion from Chunara after Mutharika came out in the open to say he was not involved in the cement issue.

Our highly placed sources who opted for anonymity told us MRA conducted an audit on the trader, who imported the cement using Mutharika’s Taxpayer identification number (Tpin).

MRA’s move to audit Chunara came at a time when ACB froze accounts belonging to Mutharika, Mbilizi and Chisale in connection to the saga.

Earlier in August, Mukhitho was arrested 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.

The former Head of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) the late Bob Mtekama led a team that interrogated Mutharika on his involvement in the issue at his retirement home in Mangochi.

Mutharika is said to have imported 1,200,000 million bags of cement duty-free in three batches.

The consignment is an equivalent of 2,000 thirty tonner articulated trucks carrying a maximum of 600 cement bags each.

Each consignment was valued at $2.240 million, bringing the total cost of the three consignments to $6.720 million (about K5.040 billion).

The first clearance was made on November 28, 2018 while the second clearance was given on July 1, 2019. The third clearance was issued on December 16, 2019 and were all signed by MRA Deputy Commissioner, Technical – Customs and Excise, Abigail Kawamba.

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