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Court rebuffs Cashgate suspect

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The High Court in Lilongwe has dismissed an application by Cashgate suspect, Stafford Mpoola, to unfreeze a bank account for one of his businesses, Image Investments.
The Daily Times understands that, on October 10 2017, Mpoola wanted to withdraw the sum of K50 million from FDH account number 9700000069668 for Image Investments but was not successful as the bank told him that the account was blocked.
In a ruling made on December 22 2017, following an application Mpoola made on November 10 2017, judge Charles Mkandawire said there was suppression of facts in the application.
The judge also ordered Mpoola to pay costs incurred by two respondents in the matter, FDH Bank and Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA).
It is understood that Mpoola attempted to withdraw the money after FIA failed to renew a restraining order it initially obtained in January 2014 at the Magistrates’ Court in Lilongwe. The order was renewed twice, in June 2014 (for six months) and on December 26 2015 (for one year) which expired on December 26 2015.
In his skeleton arguments, through lawyers Francis Franklin and Company, Mpoola argued that FDH Bank stopped him from withdrawing money from his account for the past three years, on the basis that it was being monitored from elsewhere but the bank did not furnish or serve him with any such directive or order in the three years.
He also argued that FIA had no mandate under the law governing the freezing of accounts to direct FDH Bank to freeze the account, having not sought the authority to extend the period of the restraining order as provided for by law.
“We submit that this is the case in which the court must exercise its discretion and grant an order allowing the claimant access his account and transact as he deems fit,” reads the conclusion of the skeleton arguments.
FDH Bank is the first respondent while FIA is the second respondent.
However, in its skeleton arguments, as explained by affidavit sworn by John Minofu, FIA’s Financial Analysis Manager, and Senior Assistant Chief State Advocate, Dzikondianthu Malunda, the FIA argued that granting a stay order would defeat the purpose of Financial Crimes Act.
“Releasing the funds back to the claimant before the conclusion of the criminal prosecution would render the consequent forfeiture proceeding futile. This principle that substantial justice should be done without undue regard for technicality should be applied considering that is a criminal matter,” it reads.
Image Investments was one of Mpoola’s businesses the Director of Public Prosecutions obtained a restraining order on, having declared it “a tainted property”. Other accounts also declared as such at FDH Bank were Mpoola’s account and Hunter Logistics, according to an order of January 24 2014.
An affidavit by Malunda states between April 2013 and September 2013, Mpoola stole a total sum of K1, 630, 161,909.89, paid in the name of Stadal Building Contractors, Dan Civil Engineering and Image Investments, from the Ministry of Tourism without rendering any service to the ministry.
The document shows that on August 19 2013, Image Investments received two cheques of K516, 764, 228. 54 while on August 2 2013, Stadal Building Contractors received three cheques of K712,308,766.
Mpoola is one of the suspects in a case in which former Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo, and others are answering charges of laundering government’s K2.4 billion.

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