The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has blamed public officials for perpetrating transnational wildlife crimes for which 11 Chinese nationals are currently facing trial over a range of offences related to wildlife.
Speaking at a panel discussion organised by the United States (US) Embassy in Lilongwe on Wednesday, ACB director Reyneck Matemba said the police, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and judicial officers are some of the suspects that are abetting crime.
The ACB boss was reacting to panel discussion moderator Zilanie Gondwe’s question on why, in recent months, there seemed to be an increase in cases of Chinese nationals arrested for wildlife offences. Official records from the Department of Parks and Wildlife show that 11 Chinese nationals have been arrested and are facing trial for wildlife crimes since January this year.
Said Matemba: “Those that you mentioned are exploiting this country. Unfortunately, we are hosting them, we are giving them refuge, we give them shelter. So, even us as Malawians are to blame.
“I remember a time when I said public officers are facilitating corruption, I was demonised. I made no apologies and I am not making any apology today because the positions that we hold as public officers—we are almost in every sector and criminals know that. What we discovered is that criminals are using public officers; immigration officials, custom officials once they are arrested they are also targeting the judiciary”.
Matemba said the bureau once received a report against one judicial officer who was handling a case to do with Chinese nationals implicated in wildlife syndicate and that the he had to personally engage the officer to advise the suspects that the graft-busting body was watching.
“The case that [Gondwe] talked about we received a report on what was happening, I spoke to the Chief Resident Magistrate and I said we have heard these reports and just know that we are watching…the good thing is the case went as we expected” he added.
The panel discussion happened before the visiting US Congresswoman Betty Mc, pooled representatives from the US embassy, Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), Malawi Police Service, chairperson for the natural resources committee of Parliament Wereni Chilenga and Director of National Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa.