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George Chaponda case moves to Reserve Bank of Malawi

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The Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate Court will on Monday move to the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) in Lilongwe to verify sequences of foreign currency that was seized from former minister of Agriculture George Chaponda’s Area 43 residence in Lilongwe.

Chaponda’s defence team earlier told the court that the money was “change” from foreign trips that the politician made.

But a fourth witness for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Kondwani Zulu, argued that the foreign currency may not have been change from the trips because it was in a sequence.

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“The serial numbers of the dollars were very close as if they were withdrawn at the same time. The Malawi kwachas were in stacks with Standard Bank and National Bank stamps dated November 2016,” he said.

Zulu further said the investigators questioned the amount of the United States dollars, saying the maximum amount one is allowed to have is $10,000.

“We found money in what seemingly looked like the master bedroom. He told us the Malawi kwachas were monies that he changed from US dollars he withdrew from his pension account every time he went outside the country. We asked for receipts but he did not produce any,” he said.

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Lead defence counsel, Tamando Chokhotho, said, although they think travelling to Lilongwe is irrelevant to the case, they will still comply with the State’s wishes.

“The fact that Dr Chaponda was found with US dollars in his house is nothing to dispute at all. We are simply going to do what the State wants. Maybe they will prove something but it’s irrelevant,” he said.

However, ACB lead prosecutor, Macmillan Chakhala, said it is a normal procedure which will help the court to understand what the witness said.

“It is very important because you see money was seized: both local and foreign. There is a way that the court is supposed to see those sequences that the investigator was talking about. The defence may think it is not important but, to us, it is very important,” he said.

On Wednesday, during cross examination of third witness Robert Mkandawire, the defence produced a licence of permit that Chaponda claimed to have obtained from the Minister of Finance in 2004, allowing him to have foreign currency, But Mkandawire doubted authenticity of the licence.

In this regard, the State has since asked the defence to produce an original licence to put to rest the doubts the State has.

“We are suspecting that it may not be authentic. We just want to question the authenticity. If he [Chaponda] had this permit, he should have produced it way back. He was asked when he was arrested [but] he did not say [anything] about this permit. So, we have to certify the authenticity of this permit, that’s why we want to see the original and not the copy,” he said.

Chaponda is being accused of giving false information to the ACB, possession of foreign currency in Malawi and attempt to obtain an advantage.

While his co-accused, one of the directors of Transglobe Produce Export, Rashid Tayub, is facing a charge of persuading a public officer to perform his functions corruptly.

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