High Court Judge Rowland Mbvundula has ordered the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and former president Peter Mutharika to address the court on the issue of legal misunderstanding in relation to the freezing of his accounts.
Mutharika, through his lawyer Samuel Tembenu, sued ACB for refusing to unfreeze his account upon expiry of the 90-day restriction rule.
ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba and Tembenu confirmed Tuesday that, when the matter was taken to the High Court sitting in Blantyre, the two sides could not agree, after ACB had also informed the court of the renewed restriction order to keep the accounts frozen.
Matemba insisted that the bureau renewed the restriction order but referred the matter to the court.
“We renewed the restriction (order) here in Lilongwe but they claim that they did not know [about it]. I think we may not want to go into those details; maybe if you ask the court because they are the neutral party. We do not want to be seen as if we were only talking about our side,” he said.
Tembenu, however, accused ACB of being unprofessional, arguing that bureau officials went behind them and renewed the restriction order while they were fully aware of the court case at hand.
“On 4th December 2020, we wrote the bank that our client would start issuing mandates to the bank because the restriction notice had expired. That letter was widely covered by newspapers as well as the social media.
“Now, in reaction to our letter to the bank, the ACB went back to the magistrate and renewed the restriction notice without notifying our client and with the full knowledge that there was a court case,” he said.
Tembenu argued that ACB obtained the new restriction order a month after the expiry of the previous one.
“They issued that notice on August 6 (2020) and, ordinarily, it was supposed to last for three months. So, by 6 November 2020, it had expired,“ he said.
Mutharika is fighting for the unfreezing of the accounts, arguing that ACB officials have failed to show or demonstrate the connection or linkage between the frozen account and the use of Taxpayer Identification Number (TPIN) by other persons that are accused of using it.
ACB froze Mutharika’s accounts, including those of his wife Gertrude and former Malawi Revenue Authority boss Roza Mbilizi, following revelations that, using his TPIN, some people imported 400,000 bags of cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe.