Although some progress has been made, government is struggling to get its hands on some property suspected to have been obtained using spoils from the looting of public funds at Capital Hill, officials have said.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Bruno Kalemba recently obtained several warrants from the courts to seize cashgate assets and said the warrants were handed to police for execution.
However, Minister of Justice Fahad Assani on Tuesday said government is finding it difficult to confiscate some of the cashgate property, especially movable assets, although some houses, flats and office buildings belonging to people connected to the massive theft of public funds at Capital Hill have been seized.
“On seizure of the houses, we are not moving out the people from the houses immediately because if we do that, the houses may be vandalised. Those houses will be subject to complete seizure at the time of getting conviction from the court,” said Assani.
“We must admit that it is proving difficult to get some of the assets, especially vehicles. Some of the people have succeeded in hiding their assets
“When they hear that our investigators are following up on the assets in the places where they have hidden them, the people are also moving the assets from those places and this is making it difficult for us to get the assets,” said Assani.
He appealed for strong support from the public to locate some of the assets the police are hunting to confiscate.
“It’s like people knew immediately we started making the arrests that we were going to seize their assets. Therefore, all they have succeeded to do is to hide some of the assets.
“This is where Malawians need to show their patriotism now by coming forth to authorities with information about where the people are hiding their vehicles,” said Assani.
He, however, said government has succeeded to stop change of ownership for some of the vehicles suspected to be connected to cashgate at the Road Traffic Directorate (RTD).
“What has succeeded most is that the Road Traffic Directorate is not allowing disposal of such vehicles because they are checking with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and other authorities on applications for change of ownership of the vehicles,” said Assani.
This was corroborated by police in Lilongwe who have for the past weeks seized over 14 vehicles believed to have been acquired as a result of the looting at Capital Hill.
Speaking during a media briefing in Lilongwe this week Deputy Inspector General of Police Nelson Bophani said the vehicles have been recovered through their Police CID officers.
“We believe the vehicles impounded are those which were bought through cashgate, I cannot disclose the names of the people involved, but they are under our custody,” he said.
Among the vehicles, three Scania busses, one range rover, a Mercedes- Benz and the latest Toyota Corolla, belong former chief tourism officer Leonard Kalonga who was charged and released on bail in connection with theft and money laundering for allegedly defrauding government of K84 million (US$204 878) through dubious means.
“When we seized the first busses, we were told that the second fleet was coming so when it arrived we were told. As for the other vehicles, we used our channels, while some vehicles were apprehended at neighbouring houses,” Bophani said.
Prior to the shooting of Ministry of Finance former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, police had arrested civil servant Patrick Sithole after finding him with K120 million (US$292 689).
Among others, police also arrested civil servant Martha Banda whom they found with K7.8 million (US$19 024) at her home in Lilongwe.
Police have also retrieved $184 000 (about K75 million) in cash from a safe box at First Merchant Bank (FMB) belonging to attempted murder suspect in the Mphwiyo shooting case, Pika Manondo.
They also recently impounded four of the cashgate six buses for which the Tourism Ministry paid K520 million through a cheque co-signed by arrested principal accountant to government Roosevelt Ndovie.
Ndovie was also earlier arrested after police found him with K3 million cash in his car boot and $25 000 (about K10 million) at his house.