A week after we reported that Malawi Law Society has written the AG, ACB and DPP on the Zuneth Sattar case, we now have found the letter and we disclose the demands which the lawyers’ body is making in its dogged pursuit of the matter
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has demanded a list of all the names of government officials at all levels and in all branches or departments who are under investigation in the Zuneth Sattar case.
‘The list’ has been subject of intense social media speculation and public expectation since news of Sattar’s arrest emerged last year.
In a letter dated January 15, 2022 and addressed to Attorney General (AG), Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General and Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the lawyers’ body also demands that the three agencies disclose the amount of money involved in the alleged bribery.
The society has since given the three agencies 15 days to respond to this request. As it is, Sunday, January 30, is the final day.
“The information hereby requested by the Malawi Law Society is limited to all the names of government officials at all levels and in all branches or departments, if any, past and present allegedly involved in the corrupt dealings with or in connection with the said Zuneth Sattar,” it says.
The law society, which has produced several statements on the matter, further demands:
“The amount of money in alleged bribery or the assets or value of assets involved in the alleged corrupt dealings concerning the officials.
“Any other information considered relevant for the Malawi Law Society to know to enable the Society effectively conduct its statutory protection-of public-interest role disclosed herein.”
MLS further cautions the three agencies for lack of coordination, arguing that this has the potential to disengage the momentum in the fight against corruption in the country.
In this regard, the Society has since asked if the agencies see it fit that it should constitute an independent professional team to coordinate efforts by the three agencies.
“Should you find it of any value, therefore, the Society offers to constitute a team of senior and respected lawyers to be available to you and act as your independent and professional legal advisors in regard to co-operation among the three offices in the management of your respective roles in the Zuneth Sattar issue for the sake of protection of public interest under the law set to curb corruption,” reads the letter, signed by Chairman Patrick Mpaka and Honorary Secretary Chrispin Ngunde.
Fears of coordination among the three agencies came to the fore last month following a pronouncement in December by AG Thabo Nyirenda in which he indicated 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.
Nyirenda said this in his response to questions as to why he did not consult the ACB in his declaration of amnesty for those that defrauded government money — a move some quarters see as a ploy to protect officials in the current administration who might have been entangled in the Sattar case.
The AG’s declaration of a 60-day amnesty came amid investigations by the ACB, in conjunction with the United Kingdom’s National Crimes Agency (NCA), into Sattar’s alleged underhand dealings with Malawi Government departments.
We sought Nyirenda’s response to the Malawi Law Society’s letter.
He refused to disclose as to whether his office has responded to the letter or not.
“It was a confidential communication so I cannot tell you any progress on my end. It was confidential,” he said.
Both the DPP Steven Kayuni and ACB Director General Martha Chizuma could not be reached on their mobile phones.
MLS’s Ngunde could not come out clear on whether the Society got a response from any of the three but he was quick to say the 15 days’ deadline had not elapsed.
“I cannot recall from the top of my head when the 15 days expire. As to what we will do when the 15 days expires, let us talk when it happens,” he said.
However, a source from one of the agencies who spoke to us on condition of anonymity said ACB would be in a better place to respond to the MLS’s request.
“Looking at the letter and the demands which the Society is making, only ACB at this point is privy to that information. So, I do not think these other agencies can respond.
“However, even for the ACB it would be difficult to give out the information because it is an ongoing investigation,” said the source.
In the letter, MLS also tackled the issue of the 60-day amnesty that the AG offered to those involved in corruption without involving the ACB.
On January 9, the AG announced an amnesty to companies and individuals that may have defrauded or helped in defrauding government but are willing to voluntarily surrender the said wealth to do so in 60 days.
However, on Monday evening during his national address President Lazarus Chakwera said he was not in support of the idea to offer amnesty to people suspected of engaging in corrupt practices although this was one of his campaign promises.
Sattar, who was arrested in the United Kingdom last year by the British anti-corruption agency, NCA, is alleged to have been giving bribes to politically exposed persons in Malawi with the aim of influencing public officers to corruptly award contracts to companies belonging to him.