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Ex-envoy testifies in Ethiopia fraud case

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Steven Kayuni

Former Malawi ambassador to Ethiopia Chimango Chirwa and Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Back Office Manager Boston Maliketi Wednesday testified in the case where ex-Malawi deputy ambassador to Ethiopia Doreen Kapanga and former secretary for administration and finance Fletcher Chowe are answering charges of fraud and money laundering.

Kapanga—a former deputy inspector general of Police—and Chowe were arrested in May 2016 on suspicion that they were involved in the siphoning of $409,790 out of the public purse and are accused of depositing the money into their accounts.

An investigative audit into the plunder of resources at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia revealed that K293 million was siphoned out of the public purse and deposited into personal accounts.

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Chirwa told the court that, in March 2015, Chowe ordered the embassy’s accountant to write a cheque amounting to $31,000 in his name, adding that, when the accountant demanded to know what the cheque was for, the suspect could not shed light on the purpose.

He added that Chowe later apologised to him about the cheque which Kapanga signed.

According to Chirwa, it was surprising that the cheque was signed by Kapanga because, by that time, she was out of the office for about a month and was waiting to go back to Malawi after being recalled.

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Chirwa said he reported the matter to the then principal secretary for foreign affairs, who recommended the suspension of Chowe and another officer at the embassy.

He added that, in his report to Kabambe— which was submitted via his office— Chowe indicated that the cheque was issued by error and that he wanted to issue a cheque to suppliers for an amount of 3,100 Ethiopian Birr and that he was in the process of correcting it.

Later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unleashed a team of forensic auditors, who combed the embassy’s books.

At court Wednesday, Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni asked the court to give the State 14 days to bring to court two more local witnesses, an auditor and an investigator. He further asked the court for another month to bring a foreign country-based witness in the case.

Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa has since adjourned the case to August 30.

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