Seven and half years for Leonard Kalonga
Former Assistant Director in the Ministry of Tourism, Leonard Kalonga, has been sentenced to seven and half years imprisonment for his involvement in the infamous Cashgate.
Kalonga was convicted in August 2015 for his involvement in the laundering of government’s K3.7 billion after pleading guilty to three charges levelled against him.
Delivering the sentence Friday, Judge Fiona Mwale said for money laundering charge, Kalonga should spend even and half years in prison while for facilitating money laundering, he should spend two years.
For the third count of conspiracy to commit fraud, Mwale ordered that he should spend one year in prison. The sentences will run concurrently.
She indicated that Kalonga remained willing to provide further assistance on the case and as such, a reduction of the sentence should be considered.
She also said Kalonga willingly said he would give back to the State five vehicles, including Range Rover Sport worth K23 million, A Mercedes Benz, Toyota Corolla worth K7 million, another Toyota Corolla worth K3.5 million, a third Toyota vehicle and two houses in Kawale worth K19 million.
Mwale, however, expressed displeasure with mitigation by the defence that his wife is a ‘mere house wife’ which, according to the judge, could have been conveyed without calling her such.
In an interview after the judgement, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mary Kachale said the state has no plans of making an appeal on the sentence as they are satisfied with it.
“What it means is that the judge has imposed a sentence of seven and half plus two and plus one which is like ten and half years but because of the cooperation she has suspended an operation of the law under section 17 and said that the sentences will run concurrently and not consecutively,” she said.
She further said Malawi had no capacity to do plea-bargain negotiations as such the Ministry of Justice approached the British government to get technical assistance to facilitate the plea-bargain in the case when Kalonga requested for such.
“The British government provided assistance to the Malawi government and to us to bring in experienced lawyers so we have an experienced lawyer who previously worked in the United Kingdom (UK) who was instrumental in managing the plea-bargain process with Kalonga,”Kachale said.
“Other than that we would have been able to do it in the manner that was meeting all the international standard. The time taken is also beneficial because we have been transparent and accountable. We are hoping that more accused person’swill face up to the truth. If you are indeed remorseful the only way to do it is to plead guilty,” she said.
Since his conviction in August 2015, Kalonga has been in prison. This means that he has at about four more years to spend in prison.
In his plea after admitting to have defrauded government about K3.7 billion, Kalonga told High Court Judge Fiona Mwale that the money was being stolen in 2013 to support former president Joyce Banda’s People’s Party 2014 campaign.
Kalonga mentioned another Cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo and Cashgate suspect former budget director Paul Mphwiyo as some of the accomplices.
In between Kalonga’s conviction and sentencing, the State has used him as principal witness in another Cashgate case involving Mphwiyo.
He named Mphwiyo as a Cashgate mastermind in the process.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau first arrested Kalonga in October 2013 and he initially denied the charges of theft and money laundering but later pleaded guilty to the charges ‘not to waste court’s time.’
Kalonga is the one who led the Ministry of Tourism in process of procuring six buses using the Cashgate proceeds. The buses were later distributed to some government agencies.
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