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Malawi Law Society keeps grip on Zuneth Sattar case

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NGUNDE—I can confirm the letter

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) is keeping tabs on the Zuneth Sattar case, with details emerging that it has written state agencies handling the matter reportedly inquiring about progress of investigations and recommending certain actions to be taken by the agencies.

MLS’s letter comes amid growing fears that there are efforts by some quarters in government and outside it to scupper the pursuit of the matter because it allegedly involves them.

Now we have learnt that the law society, which also earlier issued a strong statement cautioning against interference with the investigations, has written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Attorney General (AG) on the matter.

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This revelation is contained in a letter which the law society has written to its members appraising them on its activities in relation to the Sattar case.

This communication to the lawyers, dated January 19, 2022 and titled ‘Update on MLS role in the alleged corrupt practices and dealings involving Mr Zuneth Sattar and others’, shows that the society penned the three agencies last week following its earlier public statement providing guidance on legal matters going on in the country.

“On 15th January, 2022, your Exco delivered a comprehensive write up before the office of the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau engaging the three public functionaries and providing the Society’s insight, recommendations and ideas on the various legal issues that have emerged since the Press Statement of 9th January, 2022,” reads part of the letter.

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MLS Honorary Secretary Chrispin Ngunde who signed the letter confirmed authoring the letter.

But he declined to disclose the contents of their communication to the AG, DPP and ACB.

“The communication was strictly confidential so we can not disclose that. Even our members do not know the contents of the letter to the three agencies. But I can confirm that the letter you have seen was from us,” he said.

DPP Steven Kayuni confirmed receiving the letter from MLS but he too declined to disclose the contents of the letter.

“It is a confidential communication; and I would be failing in my duties if I gave you information of that letter because the society wrote us confidentially,” he said.

ACB Director General Martha Chizuma and the AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda did not pick our calls when we tried to reach out to them yesterday for their comments on the letter.

However, a well-placed source from one of the penned agencies who opted for anonymity said the lawyers’ body was asking for information thus far on the investigations regarding Sattar.

“I have seen the letter. Basically, MLS is asking for information on the ongoing investigations on Sattar but also they are asking for the DPP and AG to coordinate the investigations,” said the source.

The issue of coordination came to the fore recently when it emerged that AG released a statement in which he declared amnesty on those involved in corruption without involving the ACB, the key corruption investigation unit in the country.

AG Nyirenda defended the move, arguing that ACB was third in the hierchachy which comprises the ACB, DPP and the AG’s office at the top.

On January 9, the AG announced an amnesty to individuals and companies that may have defrauded or helped in defrauding the government but willing to voluntarily surrender the said wealth to do so within 60 days.

The announcement caused a furore from various quarters.

The law society asked the AG to tread carefully on the granting of the amnesty. It argued that the move is not backed by any law.

MLS President Patrick Mpaka was quoted in the media later as saying the AG had failed to identify any legal basis, both in his statement issued on January 9, 2022 and the press briefing he held in Lilongwe a few days after the statement where he sought to clarify his declaration.

In December, MLS also issued a statement warning against interference with the investigations being conducted by the ACB on the Sattar matter.

Sattar, who was arrested in the United Kingdom last year by the British anti-corruption agency, the National Crimes 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.

Some argue that the amnesty declared by the AG, although also extended to Cashgate files, is meant to protect officials in the current administration who may have been entangled in the Sattar case.

The ACB and NCA are working in collaboration on the matter.

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