The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has moved to forfeit 20 properties belonging to various entities linked to United Kingdom-based Malawian businessperson Zuneth Sattar and hearings of 10 are pending court judgement.
In a written response on Wednesday evening, ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said the developments demonstrate that the bureau is neither sleeping on duty nor applying selective justice on corruption cases, especially those linked to Sattar, because more investigations are underway.
She said this in response to a questionnaire following criticism from six local civil society organisations (CSOs) which on Wednesday accused ACB of slowing down in the fight against graft and allegedly employing selective justice in the Sattar-linked cases.
Ndala also clarified that the bureau has not freed Sattar’s frozen bank accounts, but that the restriction notice on them had expired. She said they are processing renewal of the same.
She said: “The bureau has since filed for renewal of the restriction notice with the court. We are currently awaiting hearing.
“On the other assets, you may wish to know that at the moment the bureau has obtained preservation orders for 20 properties belonging to various entities linked to Zuneth Sattar.”
Ndala said the bureau hopes to have all the properties forfeited to Malawi Government.
She also said investigations on the other alleged Sattar linked-corruption cases such as that of Lilongwe Mpenu legislator Eisenhower Mkaka (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), who is alleged to have received a vehicle from him, are underway.
“Investigations into the other Sattar-linked properties are continuing and further action will depend on the outcome of such investigations. Meanwhile, the investigation on the other alleged Sattar corruption cases also continues,” said Ndala.
The six CSOs which queried the ACB are Youth and Society (YAS), National Advocacy Platform, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency, Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation and Nyika Institute.
During a press conference in Mzuzu on Wednesday, they said they were concerned with selective justice, unconstitutional practices, and illegal conduct in the ongoing battle against corruption by law enforcement agencies
In March, ACB chief Martha Chizuma, speaking during a public lecture in Mzuzu, said the bureau targeted for seizure 80 assets, including office buildings and vehicles believed to be unexplained wealth.
The sentiments excited former State prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu, who feared failure to seize alleged ill-gotten assets would lead some people to sell the property or give it to relatives which would leave nothing to recover.
He said: “If you identify the assets at the beginning of the case, you use the Corrupt Practices Act to make restrictions so that people don’t deal with the property until the case is concluded.”
Sattar has been at the centre of a joint probe between ACB and the National Crimes Agency in the UK where he was arrested in September 2021 and granted bail later.