- JB denies role, welcomes sentence
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said it would proceed to investigate in detail claims made by Oswald Lutepo following his sentencing in the High Court in Zomba yesterday.
Judge Kapindu imposed an eight-year jail term on Lutepo on money laundering contrary to Section 35 (1) (c) of the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorists Financing Act.
He also sentenced him to three years imprisonment on charges of conspiracy to defraud government which is contrary to Section 323 of the Penal Code.
Judge Kapindu said the two sentences will run consecutively and will take effect from June 15 2015, the day he was convicted.
In an interview after the ruling, ACB deputy director, Reyneck Matemba, said the State was satisfied with the sentence, but he said there was still a long way to go as investigations would now focus on individuals who were implicated by Lutepo and other Cashgate suspects.
“We are satisfied, but this is no cause for celebration. We still have a long way to go. In his statement, Mr. Lutepo mentioned many people who are implicated in the Cashgate and we will investigate them,” Matemba said.
In the witness, Lutepo named various individuals, including former president Joyce Banda, as beneficiaries of Cashgate.
And prior to his sentencing yesterday, Lutepo claimed that JB used him to siphon K4.7 billion from public coffers.
Said Lutepo: “Joyce Banda already knows that she used me. I can’t start explaining things that she already knows. She knows how she used me. My message to Joyce Banda is that she has to know that love is more important than anything else. Using someone is a sign of lack of love.”
But in an interview yesterday through her personal spokesperson, Andekuche Chanthunya, the former president denied having benefitted from Cashgate, insisting that Lutepo has never implicated her inside court.
“Lutepo knows in his heart of hearts that I had nothing to do with the plunder of public resources. To make matters worse, Lutepo is on record as having said he was under political pressure to implicate me. He has since changed his statement a number of times, I’m not sure if anyone is still able to follow him,” said Banda.
She said it was her personal commitment and her government’s efforts to fighting corruption that led to the arrest of almost all Cashgate suspects currently in court.
JB has said Lutepo’s allegations will not affect her return, saying she is just wrapping up her speaking engagements before returning home soon.
While JB commended Lutepo’s sentence and added that more work needs to be done to rid Malawi of corruption, her People’s Party (PP) has claimed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is coercing people to implicate the former president in Cashgate.
“The DPP-led government is spending sleepless nights hunting for people; threatening hem to implicate our president, but the scheme has failed and will fail because truth shall always overcome evil,” said Ken Msonda, PP publicity secretary.
Matemba said the State would have wished for a stiffer sentence, but they could do nothing about it as the laws set 10 years as the maximum sentence for money laundering.
He added that even if Lutepo had been given 20 years, it could not reverse the damage that Cashgate has caused on the country.
“In as far as Mr. Lutepo’s case is concerned, it means a lot for us because he has given us leads and other pointers that we have to investigate further.
“But for other people who are being charged or were arrested for these offences, I think they need to relook at their defence strategies.
“Let me emphasise that the issue of restitution and cooperation with the State is very key and that is why if it were not for these two issues, I could see Lutepo getting a very higher sentence than what he has received,” he said.
Lutepo has become the seventh person to be imprisoned on Cashgate-related charges since the trials began in February 2014 and his sentence is so far the most severe. – Additional by Sellina Nkowani and Joseph Mwale