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K27m fine for six Salima Sugar Factory Immigrants

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Six Indian nationals who were among 67 immigrants arrested in July at Salima Sugar Company have been sentenced to a fine totaling K26.4 million or in default spend 12 months in prison for illegal stay in the country.

Lilongwe Immigration Department Public Relations Officer, Elack Banda, said the six had failed to renew their legal permits while working with the company in Salima District. The illegal immigrants were arrested following a raid by the Immigration Department and were charged with illegal stay, contrary to regulations of the Immigration Act. Banda said all the suspects pleaded guilty.

“They earlier pleaded not guilty and applied for bail. The bail was granted. When the court reconvened on Tuesday, August 18, the suspects changed their plea and pleaded guilty,” he said.

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Immigration State Prosecutor Binwell Kachingwe said on Thursday, the suspects appeared before the Lilongwe Resident Magistrate Court where the state prayed for stiffer punishment, stressing that by not renewing their permits, the government lost a lot of revenue.

“The six nationals changed their plea to plea of guilty meaning that they admitted to the charge. We informed the court that issues of foreigners coming to Malawi and staying illegally are becoming so rampant that the state is concerned that, if left unchecked, will compromise the security of this country. By not renewing their permits government lost revenue, which is now at 2000 US dollars per person,” Kachingwe said.

The state prayed for deportation as well as a sentence. Senior Resident Magistrate Shyreen Chirwa considered both mitigating and aggravating factors and concurred with the state’s submissions.

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“The first convict was ordered to pay a fine of K1,348,750.00 in default 12 months imprisonment. The second and third convicts were ordered to pay a fine of K415,000.00 each in default 12 months imprisonment, The fourth convict was ordered to pay a fine of K1,348,750.00 in default 12 months imprisonment. The fifth convict was ordered to pay a fine of K21,165,000.00 in default 12 months imprisonment because he had overstayed,” he said.

Kachingwe said the last convict was ordered to pay a fine of K2, 178,750.00 in default 12 months imprisonment.

The court further made orders that passports be in custody of the state and a recommendation of deportation to the Minister of Homeland Security. Salima Sugar Factory has since paid the fines for the suspects.

Meanwhile, according to Banda, two of the 61 Indians who are currently on bail have been released after it was proved that they have legal employment permits. The remaining 59 were granted a stay of their proceedings, pending judicial review.

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