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Peter Mutharika faces Anti-Corruption Bureau grill

Peter Mutharika

Egritta Ndala

By Rebecca Chimjeka & Audrey Kapalamula:

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) will interview former president Peter Mutharika from Tuesday July 20, 2021 over the alleged abuse of his Taxpayer Identification Number (TIPN) during the time he was Head of State.

It is alleged that between 2018 and 2019, the former president’s TIPN was used to import 1.2 million bags of cement worth K5.1 billion duty-free.

“The Anti-Corruption Bureau would like to inform Malawians that as part of the ongoing investigation process into the allegations of abuse of the former President’s Taxpayer Identification Number (TPIN), the ACB will interview the former president, Professor Peter Mutharika from 20th July 2021,” reads the Bureau’s statement dated 16 July 2021.

According to the ACB, this is a normal and legal process which started in 2020.

In a related development, the Bureau has also unfrozen bank accounts for Mutharika, his wife Gertrude and former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Commissioner General, Roza Mbilizi.

The accounts were frozen in August 2020 in relation to the same matter of cement importation from Zambia.

ACB Senior Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala said the accounts were given back to the holders at the expiry of the restriction order in June this year.

“The Bureau did not renew the restriction notice when it expired on June 23, 2021 because it was of the view that the restriction had served its purpose. That applied to the account of Mrs Roza Mbilizi as well,” she said.

Mutharika is implicated in the cement saga following allegations that his security aide, Norman Chisale, former State Residences Chief of Staff, Peter Mukhito and Lilongwe-based businessman Ahmed Chunara were reportedly involved in importation of the cement using Mutharika’s TPIN.

Reports indicate that Mukhito was arrested partly because he is the one who authored a letter to MRA, instructing the revenue-collecting body to clear duty-free the bags of cement, and were said to have been bought for Mutharika’s personal use.

In the initial transaction in November 2018, the former president purportedly bought 20 000 metric tonnes (MT) or 200 000 bags of cement worth $2 240 000 (about K1.68 billion) from PTC Zimbabwe Limited duty-free.

In the second transaction in July 2019, Mutharika purchased the same quantity from Prestige Export based at Chipata in Zambia.

In a statement in July last year, Mutharika denied his involvement in the importation of the cement.

He said he neither bought nor instructed anyone to buy or import the cement in question.

“Accordingly, the former president did not, as he could not, request the Malawi Revenue Authority to invoke any of his privileges to clear the alleged consignment of cement duty- free.

“Further, the former president was never at any point undertaking any construction project (s) requiring such substantial volumes of cement.

“In any event, the former president does not operate any business to sell cement on retail or wholesale.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the former president did not have any dealings with the alleged cement traders either personally or through a third party,” reads part of the statement.

Mutharika’s lawyer, Samuel Tembenu, said he needed to check with his client before giving a comment on ACB’s interview with the former president.

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