K5.1 billion cement case committed to High Court
Senior Resident Magistrate Shyreen Chirwa has committed to the High Court the K 5.1 billion cement case in which some officials under former president Peter Mutharika’s tenure imported 800,000 bags of cement duty-free.
In the case, Mutharika’s security aide Norman Chisale, former chief of staff Peter Mukhito, businessman Mahmed Shafee Chunara and former Malawi Revenue Authority Deputy Commissioner General Rosa Mbilizi are accused of importing the cement using Mutharika’s Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN).
The four appeared at the magistrate’s court in Lilongwe Friday where they were officially informed of their charges. The High Court is now expected to set a date when the case can commence.
They have been charged with seven counts.
The first count is that of fraud. The charge sheet says between 2018 and 2019, the four lied that the 800,000 bags of cement were being imported by the former Head of State.
The cement was being imported duty free, depriving the state coffers of over K1.5 billion in duty.
The second count is that of money laundering. The charge sheet says between 2018 and 2019, Chunara and Chisale converted the 800,000 bags of cement with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the property.
In the third count, Mukhitho and Mbilizi are accused of abetting and facilitating the conversion of the 800, 000 bags of cement by Chunara and Chisale.
The fourth count is that of abuse of office where Chisale, Mukhitho and Mbilizi took advantage of the authority of their offices to facilitate the duty-free importation of the cement. According to the charge, this was prejudicial to the rights of the Malawi Government.
In the fifth count, Chunara is accused of knowingly using falsified documents with intent to deceive. It says Chunara knowingly used falsified duty waivers so as to benefit under Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 418.
Through this, he evaded payment of over K1.5 billion in customs duty to the Government of Malawi.
The sixth count is that of smuggling. On this count, Chunara is charged with importing the cement without payment of custom duty, purporting the quantity was for the personal use of Mutharika.
The seventh count is about aiding and abetting smuggling.
Director of Public Prosecution Steven Kayuni said they will now be waiting for the High Court to set a date for the commencement of trial.
“We came to court to commit the accused to the High Court where the accused will take their plea. We will wait for the dates of commencement,” Kayuni said.
Lawyer for the four, Powell Nkhutabasa, said they will be waiting to be served with documents by the State for them to start preparing for the case.