Advertisement
National

Woman fixer of botched K750 million fertiliser deal

Advertisement

A South African woman, identified as Caroline Vigiakanthy Muthusamy, is at the heart of the K750 million fertiliser scandal that has rocked the government.

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has confirmed to The Sunday Times that Muthusamy occupied a “special position” and that government is already putting claims against her.

But he said other information about her remains hazy.

Advertisement

“There isn’t much known about her, but government officials trusted her with something that concerns a majority of Malawians.

“Someone has to take responsibility for that,” Nyirenda said.

A search on the internet shows that a Caroline Vigiakanthy Muthusamy had her house in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa seized from her by Nedbank in 2009, following a ruling in case No. 6326/09.

Advertisement

The Sunday Times has not confirmed whether the woman in this case is the same person connected to the fertiliser scandal. According to Nyirenda, Capital Hill entrusted the lady with the responsibility to scout for fertiliser companies and recommend the same to government.

Muthusamy brings the number of known fixers in the deal to two – the other being one Moses Khombe. But Nyirenda said he is not sure about who recruited the other between Muthusamy and Khombe.

“All the documents that I have are pointing to this lady. She is the one who introduced Barkaat Foods Limited to government because she occupied a ‘special position’ of looking for the fertiliser companies.

“It is our finding that she did all that without duty of care, skill and prudence,” Nyirenda said.

Our findings however indicate that in March 2022, Muthusamy approached Khombe and introduced Barkaat Foods as the potential supplier of the fertiliser.

She claimed it had a production line with Yara, a fertiliser company in the UK.

Khombe then brought the Smallholder Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) into the picture.

While admitting to have attended meetings at Capital Hill where Muthusamy was present, Chief Executive Officer for the SFFRFM Richard Chikunkhuzeni told the joint parliamentary committee last week that it was fired Principal Secretary for Agriculture Sandram Maweru who introduced Barkaat Foods Limited to SFFRFM.

But he also said he was once in a meeting where Muthusamy was present. “It was the PS for Agriculture who introduced the company to us.

During the meeting I recall there was Dr. Moses Khombe whom government officials were comfortable to have him there and was in the company of a lady.

I just recall that they called [her] Caroline,” Chikunkhuzeni told the committee.

But Maweru, during his testimony, said Sheba Oil Gas and Energy introduced Bakaart Foods to the ministry.

He said the company worked with the ministry on consultancy basis.

“In terms of how the ministry came to know about Barkaat Foods, it was through Shayba Oil Gas and Energy. This was a consultant that we were working with, “Maweru said without giving details how they settled for the company.

At this point it remains unclear which government official was Muthusamy’s contact at Capital Hill.

We however understand that she facilitated the signing of the contract between Bakaart Foods and the government of Malawi.

Following the signing of the contract on May 13, 2022, government wired $181,250 to Jersey, an island that is between Britain and France.

This, according to Maweru, was 2.5 percent of the purchase price. The money was transferred to Bova Investment Corporation, which Barkaat Foods had allegedly nominated as a beneficiary.

On June 16 2022, the Malawi government transferred an additional $543,750 to a bank in Germany and it landed in an account belonging to a man called Andrei Graünbaum.

Graünbaum, according to Nyirenda, was arrested by German police and will be prosecuted by the courts of that country following an application from his office.

“Note that that money was frozen by the German bank because they were able to do anti-money laundering due diligence,” he said.

After the payments, the then Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, decided to visit UK to follow up on the deal.

Muthusamy and Khombe went to the United Kingdom as the minister’s advance party after Barkaat Foods reportedly promised to meet the cost of their accommodation.

However, days after they had checked into the hotel, it became clear that Barkaat Foods was not going to foot the hotel bill.

Alarmed by the development, Khombe reportedly contacted the Malawi High Commission in London. It was only at that point when genuine due diligence began.

Our informants have told us that when the High Commission in the UK called the number indicated on the contract document, the person who answered the call said they were an accounting firm and denied any knowledge of Barkaat Foods.

Asked if police will be acting on Muthusamy, National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya asked for more time to consult before commenting.

Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau Martha Chizuma has said Muthusamy is on the list of people the office will investigate.

In a statement last month, the Ministry of Agriculture said, through SFFRFM, it paid the K750 million “to lock the price” of the fertiliser.

But it was Barkaat which terminated the contract – after pocketing the money. “Barkaat Foods Limited failed to supply and consequently terminated the contract citing loss of production line at Yara UK and that they could no longer commit to supply the fertilizer,” read the statement, signed by Maweru.

Maweru released the statement following persistent reports on social media that government had been swindled of K30 billion in the fertiliser purchase deal.

In the statement, the ministry denied it had been duped of that amount.

The scandal has cost jobs. Maweru had his contract terminated. Lowe and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa were fired from cabinet.

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

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker