Former president Peter Mutharika’s lawyers have queried the manner in which Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials are handling the Democratic Progressive Party leader’s scheduled interrogation, wondering why ACB officials are refusing to divulge information and grant him ample time for preparations.
Tuesday, ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala indicated, in a statement, that the interview with Mutharika, which was scheduled for Wednesday through to Tuesday, July 27, had been shifted to next week to give the former president’s lawyers enough time to prepare for the interrogation.
She added that the interview would be conducted virtually to observe Covid preventative measures and regulations.
The ACB is expected to interview Mutharika to establish if he were involved in the alleged importation of cement from Zambia using his Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN) when he was Head of State.
It is alleged that cement worth K5 billion was imported into the country, duty-free, using Mutharika’s TPIN.
However, Mutharika’s lead lawyer Samuel Tembenu, in an interview with The Daily Times, expressed displeasure with the way the ACB was handling the matter.
Tembenu said Mutharika believes that the seven-day period he had been given was not enough considering that the interrogation would be based on events that happened within six months, such that giving them inadequate time to prepare is an injustice.
“We asked the ACB to provide us with some information relating to the matter so that we can easily prepare, but they did not provide the information. So, we have no choice but to go by their demands.
“Meanwhile, we are preparing for the interview and we will see how much progress we will make before determining our position,” Tembenu said.
When we sought Ndala’s views on the issue, she could not give reasons for ACB’s position.
However, sources privy to the issue said Mutharika’s lawyers wanted the bureau to give them 21 days, but their request was not taken into consideration.
When the matter first came to light, the ACB arrested several people including former deputy commissioner general of Malawi Revenue Authority Rosa Mbilizi, former State House chief of staff Peter Mukhitho and businessman Shafer Ahmed Chunara.
But, at press conferences he has held since being voted out of office on June 23 last year, Mutharika has been denying his involvement in the issue.
As part of their benefits, Malawi’s presidents are allowed to import some items for personal use without paying duty.