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IT guru named Cashgate architect

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Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale has named Steve Likhunya Phiri, an Information Technology (IT) guru, as brains behind the plundering of billions of public resources amounting to over K24 billion in the infamous Cashgate.

Phiri, a civil servant, who was arrested some weeks ago, is said to have offered his proficiency in beating the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) and assisted in the breaching and manipulation of the system, consequently leading to the free- for-all looting of taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, Kachale on Thursday applied to the High Court in Lilongwe to have Phiri join 18 other accused persons, including former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, who are answering multiple counts of defrauding government K2.4 billion in 2013.

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The counts include holding property belonging to government, issuing fraudulently, conspiracy to defraud government, theft, money laundering and abuse of public office.

Mphwiyo, who is currently on bail, was re-arrested on November 7 alongside three accused persons, Roosevelt Ndovi, Auzius Kazombo Mwale and Clemence Madzi.

The list of the other accused persons include contractors and some civil servants who signed for the cheques among them former Accountant General David Kandoje, who signed a total of eight cheques, Ndovi and Madzi allegedly signed 24 cheques, while the other suspect Kazombo Mwale signed 16 cheques.

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In the application, Kachale explained to the court that investigating officers as well as caution statements of suspects Samuel Mzanda and Michael Mpatsa show that the IT expert had a hand in the breach of Ifmis.

“For Ifmis to be breached, it needed people with advance background in IT or computers and Ifmis knowledge and our allegation is that Phiri was that background person who assisted in the breach and manipulation. We are ready with witnesses, who will bring substantial evidence.

“He played an umbrella role-higher up there. They are things that the people [who plundered] could not have done without his expertise. That is why he is being joined to the case,” said Kachale.

The DPP also asked the court to set a date for the defence team wishing to raise preliminary objections to do so at once before the court starts dealing with substantive matters.

Phiri’s lawyer Shadreck Mhango told the court that his client was incarcerated and stressed on the need to first discuss with him on the application by the State before raising objections.

In her brief ruling, Judge Esmie Chombo said in the interest of justice as well as essence of time, Mhango should be given one hour to confer with his client, who at the time was said to be on his way to the court.

After the recess, Justice Chombo adjourned the case to February 24 2016.

Said Chombo: “Any other preliminary objections should be made between today and end January, after that the court will not entertain any preliminary objections. We have already wasted a lot of time on this matter. As for plea taking, I set Wednesday February 24 and we might proceed into witness parade on the same day.”

Other suspects answering charges in the case are: Stafford Mpoola, Maxwell Namata, George Banda, Patrick Chilalika, Sympathy Chisale, Fatch Chungano, Lumumba Karim, Stanley Mtambo, Cecilia Mervis Ng’ambi, Gerald Magaleta Phiri and Ndaona Satema

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