The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to deny the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) consent to prosecute Zuneth Sattar’s agent, Ashok Nair, has caught the attention of the Legal Affairs Committee (Pac) of Parliament.
At its meeting at Parliament Building Thursday, committee members resolved to summon the DPP, Steven Kayuni, next week for him to give grounds for his refusal, according to committee chairperson Peter Dimba.
“We, as a committee, met and made the decision to summon him early next week to pronounce himself on this decision,” Dimba said.
He added that the law mandates the office of the DPP to report to the committee within 30 days on decisions it makes, including those involving the granting of consent to institutions such as the ACB.
Dimba said, depending on how Kayuni responds, the committee might ask him to reconsider his decision and allow the ACB to proceed with the prosecution.
In a letter dated January14 2022 to the ACB, the DPP turned down the graft-busting body’s request, asking the bureau to furnish his office with all necessary documents related to investigations it has conducted into the issue other than an interim investigation report.
Kayuni further said that the requested documents are crucial for the purposes of proper and independent analysis of the evidence and the law.
“It is impossible to make a decision on an interim investigation report as the Ashok matter has an interim investigation report. It is actually surprising to note that there are findings and recommendations on an interim investigation report,” Kayuni’s letter reads.
The DPP further said it was not right to grant consent based on an interim report when results of a full report were not yet known.
The rejection stocks fears in some quarters of lack of coordination among the three agencies involved in investigations and prosecution in the Sattar case, namely the ACB, DPP and the Attorney General (AG)’s office.
Triggering the fears was the pronouncement in December by AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda indicating that the ACB was third in hierarchy and functions under the supervision of the DPP which is, in turn, under the supervision of the AG’s office.
Chakaka Nyirenda said this in his response to questions as to why he did not consult the ACB in his declaration of 60- day amnesty for those that defrauded government money, a move seen as ploy to protect officials in the current administration who might be entangled in the Sattar case.
The declaration came amid investigations by the ACB, in conjunction with the United Kingdom’s National Crimes Agency, into Sattar’s alleged underhand dealings with Malawi Government departments.
Sattar’s agent, Nair, was arrested earlier but the High Court ordered his release on the day it granted leave for judicial review to former Lands minister Kezzie Msukwa, who also stopped ACB from arresting him in a corruption case involving land deals.
However, the issue of amnesty took a new turn on Monday, when President Lazarus Chakwera distanced his administration from the issue.
He announced that he had told Justice Minister Titus Mvalo to tell Chakaka Nyirenda that he did not support the idea of offering 60- day amnesty to people suspected of engaging in corrupt practices although this was one of the Tonse Alliance’s campaign promises.