ACB sitting on bingu’s assets probe

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is dragging its feet on probing former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s K61 billion wealth, Weekend Nation can reveal.

ACB, which has been probing the controversial assets, is yet to move authorities for fresh documentary evidence from Jersey Island in Europe after part of the information it received last year “grew wings”.

One of Bingu’s assets: Casa Blanca Manor at Ndata Farm in Thyolo

ACB director general Reyneck Matemba admitted to our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday in March this year that some information it got from Europe relating to Mutharika’s bank details could not be traced; a development that stalled progress on the probe.

The bureau, through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, sought assistance from the European island and received the evidence some five years ago, but the information later went missing mysteriously.

Has assets valued at K61 billion: Bingu

Through the office of Attorney General (AG) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), ACB could have asked authorities in Jersey Island to provide the missing information. But a year after the graft-busting body reported about its intention to request for fresh evidence, it is yet to do so.

In March this year, Matemba further promised to engage former ACB head Justice Rezine Mzikamanda—under whose tenure the bureau handled the matter—on the way forward. This, too, has not been done.

“The only information that we have at ACB relating to this matter is a letter written by former director general [Justice Rezine Mzikamanda], addressed to the former Director of Public Prosecutions [Bruno Kalemba], where the former DG of the ACB is acknowledging receipt of some information from the former Director of Public Prosecutions.

“In view of this, therefore, I wish to inform you that the ACB will endeavour to engage office holders at the time and decide on the way forward,” Matemba told Nation on Sunday in March this year.

Mutharika is believed to have amassed the K61 billion riches during his eight years in office (2004 to 2012), when prior to becoming Head of State in May 2004 his declared wealth was a just about K150 million.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Pililani Masanjala, whose office also speaks for the DPP and the AG, said in an interview they were still waiting for instructions from ACB for the ministry to communicate with authorities in Jersey for fresh information.

“It is the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] and the Attorney General [AG] which communicate with other international institutions on such issues. But we only work on instructions. Until the ACB directs us, we can’t do anything.

“This is because we only have prosecutorial powers but ACB has both the prosecutorial and investigative powers,” said Masanjala.

On his part, Justice Mzikamanda said, in a WhatsApp interview, he was unaware that ACB wanted to engage him on the way forward regarding the matter.

“Besides, it is now more than five years since I left the bureau and not once have I been contacted on anything,” he explained.

Justice Mzikamanda wrote the DPP—which is the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs’ prosecution arm—acknowledging receipt of the Jersey Island information on July 4 2014.

But, in an e-mailed response last week, Matemba, while indicating that they would still engage Justice Mzikamanda on the matter, said he was not in a position to give details on that engagement.

“But since we   also report to the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC) of Parliament, regarding our work, we will seek audience with the LAC, and brief them on the progress of this matter,” Matemba said.

LAC chairperson Kezzie Msukwa said, in an interview last week, that the matter was yet to be tabled before his committee.

National coordinator of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Boniface Chibwana observed that the problem is that ACB lacks operational independence.

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