- Batatawala taken ill, yet to be charged
- Former Immigration chief, one other arrested
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has given conflicting reasons for arresting businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala on Wednesday in connection with procurement contracts at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
In its press statement announcing the arrest of Batatawala in Blantyre on Wednesday, ACB stated that its investigations established that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services awarded the businessperson a contract without following procurement procedures, thereby costing the Malawi Government about K4.7 billion.
The bureau added that Batatawala would be charged with conspiracy to defraud contrary to Section 323 of the Penal Code.
But a warrant for his arrest the bureau obtained from the Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court has cited a different charge altogether.
In the warrant the bureau states that Batatawala, in or around March 2010, allegedly conspired with others to inflate the market price of 500 lockers procured by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services from Africa Commercial Agency.
When asked about the disparities in an interview on Thursday, ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala said she was yet to see the warrant for arrest and that what she informed the public is what she was told regarding Batatawala’s arrest.
She said the bureau was going to take Batatawala and his co-accused, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services commissioner Fletcher Nyirenda, to court within 48-hour rule.
In a separate interview Batatawala’s lawyer, Alex Nampota, a former ACB director general, expressed surprise at the disparities in the reasons, but declined to comment, saying they will argue their case in court.
Meanwhile, the ACB on Thursday failed to continue interrogating Batatawala and take him to court for formal charging after he was taken ill and rushed to Shifa Private Hospital in Blantyre.
In a related development, the ACB on Thursday also arrested former chief Immigration officer Elvis Thodi and the department’s deputy director Limbani Chawinga in connection with the Batatawala contract deal.
They are accused of conspiring to defraud government.
In a statement on Thursday, the bureau said Thodi and Chawinga are likely to be charged with abuse of office, conspiracy to defraud government, neglect of official duty and giving false information to a person employed in the public service.
Thodi was arrested in Lilongwe and driven to Blantyre this morning. He is being held at Blantyre Police Station alongside the other three.
Batatawala is suspected of corrupt practices in procurement contracts for uniforms and other accessories at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services between 2009 and 2012.
In a written response to a questionnaire on Wednesday, ACB director general Martha Chizuma said also said the bureau arrested the department’s commissioner responsible for operations, Nyirenda, in connection with the award of the contract to the businessperson.
In recent years, Batatawala has emerged as one of the major suppliers of goods and services to government ministries, departments and agencies, including security agencies such as Malawi Police Service and Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
Batatawala’s arrest came a day after Malawi Government announced it had engaged authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assist it to recover unspecified sums of money suspected to be illicit which the businessperson and others allegedly stashed overseas. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni confirmed the move in a written response to a questionnaire on Tuesday.