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Only K470 million recovered from Cashgate

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Government has managed to recover slightly over K470 million only out of the K24 billion stolen from the public purse in what is known as Cashgate.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) confirmed to The Daily Times in an emailed response by giving a breakdown of the assets and funds recovered saying that despite securing a number of convictions in the courts, the process of recovering property deemed to have been purchased using the stolen money is “complex and lengthy”.

Spokesperson for Ministry of Finance, Nations Msowoya, also acknowledged, in a separate interview yesterday, that it might not be possible to recover the whole K24 billion adding that some of the property might have been transferred and ownership changed.

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“I cannot tell you how much we have recovered. I have to check with the Solicitor General. But I know we can secure convictions but the process of recovering is a next step and it can’t be done overnight and surely it won’t be easy recovering everything,” Msowoya said.

So far at least 12 people have been convicted and serving jail terms and over K10 billion worth of cases are being pursued in the courts.

Senior State Advocate from the DPP office, Liness Chikankheni, explained that former principal secretary for Tourism, Theresa Senzani, surrendered a house to pay for the K63 million she is accused of stealing.

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Osward Lutepo who was slapped with an 11-year-jail term offered an industrial complex to the value of approximately K370 million. Maxwell Namata and Luke Kasamba surrendered property into court as restitution, to a combined value of K24 million while Esnart Ndovi offered K12.9 million.

But Victor Sithole who was sentenced to nine-year imprisonment for illegally possessing foreign currency amounting to K112 million lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence and financial reparation has not been resolved.

“Convicted defendants will often offer restitution of a sum representing the benefit from their offending. Convict Dzinyemba Soko serving a nine-year jail term for theft and money laundering of over K40 million was excused from a confistication order by the Resident Magistrate on the ground of inability to pay.

“Ancillary orders are, by law, dependent upon conviction of a serious offence. Where there is a dispute over the convict’s criminal benefit, the State gives notice of application for confiscation of tainted property and for pecuniary penalty orders, so the Court can determine the issue, how much can be realised from available assets and, therefore, how much is liable to be paid. This procedure is complex and lengthy,” she said.

Chikankheni, however, could not be drawn to comment on Cashgate cases involving Caroline Savala, Leonard Kalonga, James Bandura Chirwa, Allison Harrison Magombo and Angella Katengeza saying it was subjudice to do that.

Kalonga, a former assistant director for Tourism, was convicted on his own plea in August last year of pocketing K3.7 billion and he is yet to be sentenced while Chirwa, a quantity surveyor, also pleaded guilty in October last year to stealing at least K513 million and also awaits sentencing.

Magombo, a businessman, who was convicted in February this year for siphoning K32.4 million is also among those on the list awaiting sentencing.

Meanwhile, six of the Cashgate buses confisticated from Kalonga valued at K520 million have been given for free to different government departments and institutions.

Reacting to the development commentator, Rafiq Hajat, said it is worrisome that Malawians are still being taken for a ride in this whole Cashgate saga.

“Malawians are being duped with peanuts when the whole plantation is being stolen in the process. The whole process defeats the enormous amount stolen and we are concerned because the estimates being floated as being stolen are in the ranges of K577 billion and even some of the people suspected to have benefited are still serving as cabinet ministers in government,” Hajat said.

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