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Soldiers in maize smuggling syndicate

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Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officials on May 26 foiled an attempt by some Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers to externalise maize despite an export ban on the staple grain.

Police sources have confided in The Daily Times that some two soldiers driving an MDF vehicle escorted a truck carrying maize from Mzuzu past Rukuru Roadblock where they were confronted and told the documents that purportedly authorised them to externalise the maize were not enough.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, our police source said loaded in a 15-tonne van, registration number RU 4725, the maize was being escorted by two soldiers who were in an MDF Land Cruiser.

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He said since the MDF ranks higher among all the law enforcing agents in the country, it was easy for them to convince police officers manning the various roadblocks.

“The soldiers kept challenging the [police officers] that they had the right of passage because the President put them in charge of all maize issues in the country. Fortunately, the MRA officers stood their ground and demanded [to see] accompanying documents and presented the soldiers with the institutional memo regarding maize exports,” our source said.

The truck has since been detained at Songwe Boarder but the Chirumba Barracks-based MDF soldiers who were part of the military escort remain free.

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Efforts to ascertain if the escort was officially sanctioned have not yielded results as MDF spokesperson Lieutenant Wilned Chawinga is yet to grant us an interview on the matter.

President Peter Mutharika two months ago deployed soldiers to exportation of the country’s staple grain in the wake of a ministerial exportation ban.

MRA’s Head of Corperate Affairs Steven Kapoloma has confirmed the development, saying the truck has been impounded.

“With an export ban in place, it was only proper for the maize to be impounded with or without a transit document. However, the vehicle might have made its way past all the roadblocks because of the transit document they possessed,” Kapoloma said.

The development comes few weeks after a magistrate’s court in Karonga released on bail nine police officers who were arrested on allegation that they were receiving bribes from drivers and traders who were smuggling maize out of the country.

Malawi failed to produce enough maize in 2015 due to floods and persistent drought, prompting the government to place an exportation ban on the grain in accordance with Section 3 of the Special Crops Act.

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