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National

Money heist

In a mafia-style, local suspects induced local banks in an operation that siphoned billions of kwacha to financial institutions located in jurisdictions such as Cyprus and Turkey. Government says it is fighting to get the money back.

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Government, through its agencies, is battling to recover billions of kwacha which were siphoned out of local system to offshore bank accounts.

In a mafia-like operation, four suspects – Foster Harawa, Timothy Harawa, Kelvin Windell and Dawn Makunga – are suspected to have induced three local banks to externalise the money.

In the transactions that took place between April 2018 and May 2019, according to the charge sheet dated July 2021, the suspects influenced the local banks (names withheld) in separate dates for them to transfer the money out of the country.

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The money would leave local banks as insurance and escrow fees for loan facilities and would be delivered to banks and financial institutions domiciled in the United Kingdom, Turkey and Cyprus.

In some instances, the money would not take a direct route to the designated bank. It would go via another foreign based institution.

According to the charge sheet, between April and July 2018, a bank in Blantyre was influenced to deliver Euro 453,900 (about K450 million at current exchange rate) to a financial institution in Cyprus. The money was routed via another institution based in Turkey.

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In another operation, between August and September 2018, another bank, also based in Blantyre, was induced to deliver Euro726, 249 (about K714 million at current exchange rate) again to a financial institution in Cyprus through another also based in Turkey.

And in the operation that took place between May 2018 and May 2019, a bank in Blantyre was induced to deliver GBP1.36 million (about K1.6 billion) to a firm based in the United Kingdom.

In all these transactions, due processes were followed and approved.

In an interview, while describing the acts as abhorrent, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steven Kayuni told Malawi News that the people involved in the syndicate were arrested and formally charged of fraud and money laundering.

Kayuni said the case is before a Senior Resident Magistrate court in Blantyre.

“The matter is in court, jointly being prosecuted by DPP, Reserve Bank of Malawi and Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) officers. We are working hard on processes to bring back most of the illegally externalised money,” he said.

Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) Willy Kambwandira has since asked government to expeditiously conclude the case and recover the externalised money.

“We are aware that the matter is in court, and it is our hope that it will be concluded expeditiously. It is our hope that the investigations were fully undertaken to the detail and there is robust evidence,” Kambwandira said.

Records show that Malawi is bleeding significant amounts of money through corruption and forex externalization.

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