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K1 billion looted at police headquarters

Investigation exposes how a syndicate of 11 police officers fleeced state coffers through forgery and money laundering

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Steven Kayuni

An investigation at Malawi Police Area 30 headquarters in Lilongwe has exposed a syndicate of police officers who connived and defrauded government in excess of K1 billion.

According to the report, the officers, while working in different portfolios in the finance department, looted the money through fraudulent false accounting, theft, forgery of stamps, uttering of false documents and money laundering.

The investigation covered the period between July 2018 and June 2020.

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According to the audit report we have seen, the money that vanished include that paid by clients when they hired police officers from different police stations, including Police Mobile Force’s Division A and B.

The audit report also reveals that Area 30 was maintaining a welfare account with one of the country’s banks with the mandate to keep money deducted from serving police officers. This is one of the accounts the syndicate hit.

It was observed that revenue cheques collected were being deposited into the welfare account instead of depositing them into a suspense account of Ministry of Homeland Security.

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According to the report, officers involved in the looting included senior police officers such as commissioners.

The men in uniform were using the welfare account for making dubious transactions to various service providers.

The report says the looting was facilitated through dubious payments to different suppliers.

The suppliers that were used as conduits to siphon the money, according to the report, include the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST).

The report further shows that money that was collected through service charges such as hiring of police officers from different police stations was ending up in the pockets of some police officers.

Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda, has confirmed the development and said all the concerned officers have been suspended pending further action.

“I can confirm there is such development and the matter has been referred to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action,” Chimwendo said.

DPP Steve Kayuni also confirmed to Malawi News that his office has received the audit report.

However, he could not divulge more information.

“I can confirm receipt of the said report and as per procedures within the directorate, processes are in motion to investigate the matter further,” Kayuni said.

In his comment, Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT), Willy Kambwandira, whose organisation is pushing for speedy conclusion of all cases involving looting of public funds, said continued revelations of abuse of public funds are a result of rent-seeking behaviours among public officers and a constant refusal by public officers to walk the path of eradicating corruption, cronyism and nepotism in government.

“We are not surprised with these revelations at Area 30. It has become a trend now in public offices to loot anything that can be stolen. The constant refusal to act on such reports is fuelling continued looting of public coffers. There is no action, no punishment and no enforcement of the law on looters.

“However, we hope this report is an opportunity to ensure that justice is done and lost resources are recovered,” Kambwandira said.

Kambwandira also asked Malawians to be vigilant and jealously safeguard their hard earned taxes from looters.

The suspected officers, 11 in total, are expected to answer charges ranging from conspiracy to defraud, false accounting, theft by public servant, uttering false document, forgery, forgery of stamps and money laundering.

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