The State has put together 34 prosecutors from public and private practice to prosecute over 60 suspects in the looting of public funds dubbed Cashgate.
The group has been divided into three teams led by former DPP Kamdoni Nyasulu, former ombudsman Enock Chibwana and chief State advocate Primrose Chimwaza, Weekend Nation has established.
But Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), writing the Attorney General Anthony Kamanga and others on April 18, 2014, argues that in the absence of information to the public, government’s handling of Cashgate “is suspicious”.
MHRC has four main issues in their letter: witness protection, handling of controlling officers, handling of property relating to Cashgate, and general progress and way forward in investigations and prosecution of Cashgate.
has seen a lineup of some 34 prosecutors —32 public and two private —that does not include the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Bruno Kalemba.
“I know there is a lot of ground covered so far, but the DPP Mr. Kalemba would have more details,” said Justice Minister Fahad Assani in an interview this week.
Asked why he is not part of the team, Kalemba said I am in every team “because I am generally an overseer”.
“The fact that we have managed to come up with teams gives me chance to become DPP again and concentrate on other matters as well because this office is not only about Cashgate,” he said.
According to available information, Nyasulu, working as adviser to the DPP and special prosecutor under EU financing, is leading the entire process tasked to achieve three main deliverables:
—To bring together police, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to work as a team for a common goal
—To build capacity in ACB, police and Ministry of Justice
—To prosecute some cases from beginning to end.
In an interview yesterday, Nyasulu said most of the cases have delayed because “there were a lot more technical issues to be dealt with before tackling substantive matters due to the nature of the cases.”
“You will appreciate that for most lawyers in public or private practice, including magistrates, this is the first time they are handling cases under the Money Laundering Act and Public Finance Act, so there was a lot to be done to get to a clear understanding,” he said.
A case status update shows that the State has so far completed six of the 20 filed cases with only a single conviction; that of Mike Nsungama who was accused of selling a stolen car to the K120m Cashgate suspect Victor Sithole.
MRHC, in the April 18 2014 letter, a follow-up to another on January 24 this year, says it is suspicious that the State is “seen as covering up on relevant evidence or selectively dealing with individuals implicated by the Cashgate issue.”
MHRC chairperson Sophie Kalinde writes: “The commission is seeking information relating to the progress that government has recorded so far in investigations and prosecution of persons implicated in the Cashgate issue.”
Among the highlights, MHRC wants former accountant general David Kandoje, moved to Ministry of Health as PS II, arrested and prosecuted in connection with Cashgate.
He recently testified in court confirming he signed two cheques amounting to K15 million and K9 million which were payable to former accounts assistant Maxwell Namata and businessman Luke Kasamba now answering theft and money laundering charges.
The High Court in Lilongwe summoned Kandoje who appeared in court as a former accountant general during the period June to December 2013, when revelations of rampant siphoning of government broke out and K24 million which Namata and Kasamba are accused of stealing went missing.
“In particular, the commission notes, for instance, that criminal proceedings have been commenced against some line managers for example, Dr. Kazombo, who was working in the Accountant General’s Office for his role in signing checks involved in Cashgate issue, when the person who was the Accountant General at the material time was transferred to another government ministry and is only involved in court proceedings as a witness,” writes Kalinde.
On the other hand, MHRC alleges that government is yet to confiscate some property connected to the case, “especially vehicles in possession of some of the Cashgate suspects.”
In response to a questionnaire, Kalinde said the commission’s concern is also the slow pace of the process.
“While understanding the need for thoroughness due to the complexity of the issues, the longer the process takes, it has the potential to impact negatively on the public trust of our accountability, transparency systems and may entrench impunity,” said Kalinde
But Assani said the State is in control and “at this point we cannot volunteer much information.”
“We are watching and we know that some suspects think we don’t know about their property. We do and will catch up with them,” he said.
Assani also said government engaged the World Bank’s Star Project to help in profiling property outside Malawi.
And Kalemba said “the State would have loved to see a number of cases completed by May 1 “but the flow is not predictable.”
“While we may have wanted the cases to finish early enough, we are not the ones to determine because like in the cases we have completed, if the courts say there is case to answer, we will now go into defence and that is another process,” he said.