Newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni has spoken on the delays in prosecuting the case in which personal bodyguard to former president Peter Mutharika, Norman Chisale, is accused of importing 1.2 million bags of cement worth over K5 billion from Zambia and Zimbabwe using Mutharika’s Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN).
In an interview Monday, Kayuni said the file was huge and complex, riddled with multifaceted twists and turns.
Kayuni said a careful analysis of the case file was being undertaken, adding that the case would go to court soon.
“The team at the directorate realises it is [an] important duty in tandem with Malawians’ expectations, not just for the case in question but numerous other cases and [they also realise] the [need for] urgency to ‘fix the broken windows’. Covid pandemic has contributed hugely to the progress.
“We are doing all we can to get the matter in court. But, before we do that, it has to be borne in mind that the file needs to be analysed and coordination with other law enforcement agencies needs to be undertaken [so] that we can leave no stone unturned,” Kayuni said.
Chisale was in July last year arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering, in line with Section 319 and 331 of the Penal Code, respectively.
Police also arrested Prestige Import and Export owner Mahmed Shafee Ahmed Chunara on similar charges before releasing him on bail.
The cement consignment is alleged to have been imported into the country in three batches, each weighing 20,000 tonnes.
Each of the 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 allegedly 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 all were signed by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Commissioner for Technical and- Customs and Exercise, Abigail Kawamba.
After the arrest of Chisale and Chunara, Mutharika said he was shocked that MRA approved the clearance of cement duty-free using his TPIN.
Mutharika, through Personal Secretary Linda Salanjira, denied any involvement in the saga.
“The former president neither bought nor instructed anyone to buy or import the cement in question. Accordingly, the former president did not, as he could not, request Malawi Revenue Authority to invoke any of his privileges to clear the alleged consignment of cement duty-free,” the statement from Salanjira read.
But, in a statement, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) asked the government to hold Mutharika to account for the K5 billion cement saga.
“HRDC has read and noted with great shock and surprise a statement released by former president Peter Mutharika distancing himself from an apparent case of abuse of his own privileges.
“As HRDC, we know that Mutharika imported about 400,000 bags of cement worth K3.2 billion duty-free from Zambia and Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2019. The President and Malawi Revenue Authority justified the transaction as within the law,” HRDC said.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.