Swindlers’ sophisticated habits have not spared the State House, with President Peter Mutharika’s advisor on youth affairs Symon Vuwa Kaunda being the latest victim.
The former Cabinet minister and member of Parliament (MP) for Nkhata Bay Central hardly believed in an interview yesterday that he lost K1.425 million to the suspected fraudster who used the President’s name to lure him to release his cash.
In an interview on Sunday, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) senior member confirmed being tricked and depositing the said amount into the suspected swindler’s bank account.
The alleged fraudster phoned Kaunda last week posing as Felix Mangani, controller of lands at Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
The suspect claimed that he was under instruction from President Mutharika to offer Vuwa-Kaunda two plots located at Area 43 in Lilongwe.
Further, the man told Kaunda he needed to pay K6 million to the ministry, but at that moment, he was just required to pay K580 000 cash for surveying and other administrative costs.
Narrated Vuwa-Kaunda: “He told me somebody from the physical planning department would call me later for details and agree on how to collect the said money since it was a directive… Then I deposited into his [the alleged physical planning officer] bank account K580 000 on Wednesday, K474 000 on Thursday and K371 000 on Friday,” he explained.
According to Kaunda, he deposited the money into an NBS Bank account number 14411631 purportedly belonging to one Geoffrey Kaunga.
“I reported to police after discovering that the person who was posing to be Mr Mangani was actually not him,” explained Kaunda.
Asked why he did not crosscheck first before making the deposits, Kaunda said he could not doubt the suspect because he appeared to have all the information regarding his whereabouts and the operations at the ministry.
He said: “I could not doubt because I have been to the ministry… There are my three applications for plots, which have been there for three years and I also know Mr Mangani.
“He was very conversant with operations at the ministry, he had all the details and it was difficult to doubt. How could I have doubted?”
When contacted to confirm the alleged fraud, national police spokesperson James Kadadzera referred the matter to his deputy Thomeck Nyaude who said he was not aware of the matter as he was in Blantyre.
But President Mutharika’s press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani described the incident as “unfortunate, very sad and unbelievable.”
“In any case, the President or his office does not allocate plots to persons. My humble advice to the public is that we have to exercise serious caution when unknown individuals contact us via the phone or social media claiming to do so on behalf of either the President or the First Lady; more so, when these individuals ask for money.
“The President’s office is the OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet]; all transactions from that office to the public are done formally. Government business is never done on social media or over the telephone with unknown officials,” he said.