Some close allies of President Peter Mutharika face travel bans to the United States (US) and other sanctions as the US Government is investigating illicit wealth accumulation and feared corruption at high echelons of power, Weekend Nation can reveal.
The move by the US Government comes amid frustration locally and within the donor community on lack of movement on some high profile corruption cases, including the K577 billion (revised to K236 billion) Cashgate.
The move breaks new ground in the country’s fight against corruption as this is the first time a foreign power has directly moved to fight corruption in the country.
A source privy to the issue said some of the targeted officials for the investigation include senior aides to Mutharika, but none of the senior Cabinet officials has so far been targeted.
The officials targeted are already being denied visas for entry in the US, according to the source, while further sanctions are being considered.
Mutharika himself is understood to be under no investigation, so far, according to the source.
“The Americans are serious and are alarmed by the wealth accumulation of some officials close to the President. They have started with the travel bans, but it is likely that further sanctions are being considered,” said the source.
In an e-mailed response to a questionnaire, US Ambassador Virginia Palmer confirmed investigations are underway, but fell short of mentioning the branches of US federal government involved.
She further confirmed that travel bans will be used “where applicable”, but also declined to comment on reports that some officials have already been slapped with the ban.
“The US Government has the authority to impose visa sanctions on corrupt foreign officials, their families, and others who benefit from corruption. While we would not comment on potential or ongoing investigations, we will use denial of entry sanctions where applicable,” said Palmer.
She added: “We welcome President Mutharika’s recent statements reiterating his commitment to root out corruption at all levels. As always, implementation is key. As US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in May 2016: “Corruption is a poison that erodes trust, robs citizens of their money and their future, and stifles economic growth in the places that need it most.”
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Francis Kasaila yesterday said he was not aware of any US investigation on corruption in the country or travel ban on any official.
“I am hearing this from you. We have not discussed this with the US Government,” said Kasaila.
Last year, outgoing US Secretary of State [Kerry] during a London Anti-Corruption Summit warned that the US will take broader steps against corruption across the world.
Kerry, who told the summit “it is long past time for the international community to treat corruption with the seriousness and attention it deserves” and pledged to announce practical steps to strengthen the fight against corruption, including launching an International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre.
Kelly said the centre aims at improving data sharing between major financial hubs and cooperation on investigations, to expanding support for journalists struggling to uncover graft across the globe.
“Traffickers and cartels also thrive on corruption, and the most vulnerable—women, children, and minorities—often pay the greatest price. Corruption also enables bad actors to impact government decisions in ways that almost always harm ordinary citizens. Open any newspaper and you’ll find reports of ministers captured by graft, border guards bribed to look the other way, or criminals set free for a small fee,” added Kelly.
The move by the US Government comes amid long standing investigations and inactivity over investigations into the wealth of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, and investigation and prosecution of the K577 billion Cashgate whose audit findings government has refused to make public.
Special Cashgate prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu, last week observed that there is now “no strategy and no coalition” on tackling the 2009-2014 K577 billion Cashgate case in comparison to the response to the April to September 2013 K24 billion Cashgate under Joyce Banda. n