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Embassy loot now at K293m

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The latest audit report at Malawi’s embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has put the amount of money stolen at the mission at US$406,246.15 ( about K293 million), vindicating earlier fears that more money might have been siphoned at the embassy.

This latest amount is K110 million more than the K183 million which a preliminary report which we accessed about three weeks ago indicated had been looted at the mission.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Francis Kasaila, told the press in Lilongwe yesterday that the report shows that there has been “systematic and merciless plunder of public resources at the Addis Ababa mission from 2013”.

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“As much as US$406,246.15 (or K293 million) has been siphoned out by three of the officials of the embassy into their accounts.

“At this point, the issue is now a matter of theft and has been forwarded to prosecuting authorities to do their investigations and prosecute those who were involved in this plunder of public resources,” said Kasaila.

He also disclosed that his ministry has written the Auditor General to conduct independent audits in all the other missions beginning with those that have not been audited in the recent past.

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“We have been informed that [the National Audit Office [Nao] are starting the exercise with the Pretoria Mission and the Johannesburg Consulate from 9 May, 2016,” said Kasaila.

He said the stolen funds have to be returned to government by those implicated in the fraud, adding that is why the matter has been reported to police and the Chief Secretary to the government.

Kasaila described the stealing process as a well-crafted operation where some officials diverted some remittances into their personal accounts.

“We believe that there are others who were doing the operations here; that’s why we think that the police should be able to pin them down and know exactly why more resources were being remitted than what was being indicated on the remittance order,” he said.

When the suspected fraud was first reported early March, observers called on government to extend the investigations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs back home, arguing that the systematic plunder must have someone at the ministry facilitating it.

Meanwhile, Kasaila has disclosed that by June this year, 20 more diplomatic missions officials will have been recalled while another group of 20 to 30 will be recalled by December this year.

This is on top of the 82 diplomats who were recalled in March this year after their terms had expired or they were in bloated missions which were being downsized, among others.

The Addis Ababa fraud has since seen Malawi’s deputy ambassador at the mission Doreen Kapanga and Fletcher Chowe, who was first secretary for administration and finance, being suspended and recalled from the mission.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an investigation into financial transactions at the embassy was instituted after the mission’s ambassador Chimango Chirwa reported of an attempted fraud by members of staff at the mission.

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