Advertisement
NationalNewsUncategorized

State plays slow on Cashgate buses

Advertisement

Close to two years after the High Court in Lilongwe dismissed a plea by the state to release six buses suspected to have been bought using funds plundered in Cashgate, the state is yet to apply for the vacation of the restriction order on six buses procured by former Chief Tourism Officer in the Ministry of Tourism Leonard Kalonga .

This means the buses’ condition could be deteriorating further since one of the grounds filed in the state’s plea to release the 65-seater buses, filed by former Director of Public Prosecutions Bruno Kalemba, was that the buses’ condition would deteriorate. The buses were bought by Ministry of Tourism at $1 277 641.3 [about K527 million]. The ministry later disowned them.

In the court’s determination about two years ago [on April 11, 2014], Justice Fiona Mwale dismissed the application, observing that it was “immature” because the trial had not yet started. Kalonga was then facing charges of money laundering and theft by public servant.

Advertisement

On one hand, the state applied to the court for permission to discard the six Scania Marcopolo Torino buses fraudulently purchased in the name of Ministry of Tourism.

On the other hand, Kalonga’s lawyer, Joseph Kamkwasi, argued in media interviews that the state would be “shooting itself on the foot” by selling the buses.

He said this would set a precedent and it would not be long before all Cashgate suspects whose property was impounded started demanding that their property be returned before trial started.

Advertisement

“Why should the government be more concerned about the buses which nobody has claimed than the property of the other people which is equally getting damaged as it remains idle in the sun?” argued Kamkwasi.

Surprisingly, the state has not taken any action even after Kalonga’s conviction, about four months ago.

However, when asked about progress on the issue, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs told The Sunday Times in an e-mailed response that the state is mulling its next course of action.

“We are applying to remove the restriction notice on the sale of those buses,” was all Justice and constitutional affairs ministry’s spokesperson, Apoche Itimu, could say.

Meanwhile, the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) — which first arrested Kalonga on October 17, 2013 on suspicion that he connived with a number of people to defraud government— has disclosed that it has finalised investigating 80 percent of the Cashgate cases.

This comes after the sentencing of Esnart Ndovie in the K12.9 million Cashgate last week. Ndovie will spend the next three years in jail.

“You may also wish to know that the success story starts with our investigations. The bureau has investigated over 80 percent of all Cashgate cases. There are, therefore, a number of cases that will soon be taken to court for prosecution, besides the number of cases that are already pending in courts at various stages of prosecution,” said ACB spokesperson, Egritta Ndala, in an e-mailed response. On the issue of a big fish, Ndala said the graft-busting body “has been investigating the abuse of public funds without attaching it to particular individuals to the investigation”, adding that information unearthed during the investigations has led to the arrest of some of those who have been convicted.

Ndala said the bureau has been collaborating with other state agencies in a bid to corner more suspects.

“As you might be aware, the Bureau has been conducting joint prosecutions with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The success stories of these prosecutions are in the public domain. There are over 12 people that have been convicted.

Almost all of these convicts end up restituting the money as well as other assets (real property) back to government,” said Ndala.

However, Ndala was coy when asked if the bureau was following up on leads provided by chief Cashgate suspect, Osward Lutepo, following his sentencing on September 4, 2015 in the High Court sitting in Zomba.

Judge Redson Kapindu sentenced Lutepo to 11 years imprisonment on money laundering and conspiracy to defraud government charges.

ACB deputy director, Reyneck Matemba, said at the time that, “Mr Lutepo mentioned many people who are implicated in the Cashgate and we will investigate them”.

However, Ndala could not mention people being investigated after Lutepo’s revelations.

“The Anti-Corruption Bureau is following up on the information provided by the some of the convicts. However, there are some who were already under investigation,” Ndala said.

Apart from Lutepo, Esnart Ndovie, who pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering of funds amounting to K12.9m from the government in August 2013, has been given a three-year jail term.

Tressa Senzani, Leonard Kalonga and James Bandula Chirwa are some of those successfully prosecuted.

Cornelius Kaphantengo, who was director of Nova Technology and General Dealers, has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, theft and money laundering while his wife, Yvonne, was on the same counts.

Observers, including some development partners, have been calling for arrest of big guns, observing that those arrested, convicted or sentenced so far are small players in the big game of Cashgate.

However, there are indications that the big fish could be among the 20 percent who are walking around freely because institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau have only done and finished 80 percent of the investigations.

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!
Advertisement
Show More
Advertisement

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker