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No bail for six Covid funds abuse suspects

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The Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court Thursday refused to grant bail to six people suspected to have had a hand in misappropriating part of the K6.2 billion set aside for fighting the Covid pandemic.

The six include Director of Administration in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Rashid Mtelera, OPC Procurement Officer Dominic Chimaliro and businessman Martin Mainja.

These are suspected to have conspired to defraud the government through a dubious K97.1 million Covid disinfection exercise at Capital Hill and Kamuzu Palace.

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The others are from the Ministry of Information.

Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa said although bail is a constitutional right for people suspected to have committed a crime, he had denied the bail applications to give authorities enough time to conclude their investigations.

Police on Wednesday asked the court to remand the suspects for another 14 days to allow authorities to conclude their investigations.

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Chirwa has since given police nine days to conclude investigations in the Mtelera, Chimaliro and Mainja case.

He has also given the police seven days to conclude their probe in relation to the case of the Ministry of Information officials.

According to Chirwa, financial crimes are complex and require scrutinising many documents, hence the need to give the police more time to investigate the matter.

He added that on the expiry of the days given, the suspects are free to reapply for bail and that where the authorities have not concluded the investigations, they also have the liberty to apply to the court for an extension of time for remanding the suspects.

An audit report by the National Audit Office revealed massive plunder of part of the K6.2 billion through allowances and flouting procurement procedures.

By the time we went to press yesterday, 61 people had been arrested in relation to the plunder. Fifteen of these were nabbed yesterday with the police indicating more arrests are imminent.

Five of those picked yesterday are from Blantyre City Council while ten are from the Ministry of Information.

“The suspects will be answering charges of theft by public servants and fraudulent accounting, among others,” police spokesperson James Kadadzera said in a statement.

Most of the arrested individuals are yet to appear before the courts.

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