The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has asked the court to remand in custody businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala for being uncooperative in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services procurement case.
Lawyer representing ACB, Golda Rapozo, told the Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court yesterday that the graft-busting body believes that Batatawala is a flight risk if granted bail.
She said the businessperson unlike his co-accused has been playing tricks since his arrest on Wednesday to avoid being cautioned.
In her submission, Rapozo said: “As ACB, we believe that the accused is a flight risk because his other family is in India and if granted bail he may flee to India unlike his co-accused who are Malawians. I pray he beremanded to Chichiri Prison until trial is concluded.”
She further told the court that ACB found an independent medical doctor from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital who dispatched an ambulance to transfer Batatawala to the country’s major referral hospital, but medical doctors at Shifa Private Hospital where he was admitted to refused to release him. Batatawala was admitted to Shifa Private Hospital after being taken ill a day after his arrest last Wednesday.
Rapozo said the doctors at the private hospital claimed that Batatawalala was in a critical condition and that he could not be transferred to another hospital.
She said: “We found this [refusing to transfer him] very suspicious because three hours or so later, he was discharged.”
On the other hand, Batatawala’s lawyer Alex Nampota asked the court to release his client on bail.
He dismissed Rapozo’s arguments that his client was a flight risk, saying he has businesses and he has never shown interest to leave the country.
“ACB has not shown the evidence that my client intends to flee. We pray that you release him on bail because the State has not demonstrated if there will be no course of justice if my client is released on bail,” Nampota said.
After hearing arguments from both sides, senior resident magistrate Martin Chipofya reserved the bail application ruling to this morning.
Earlier, ACB formally charged Batatawala with two counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
Reads particulars of the money laundering offence: “Abdul Karim Batatawala in or around 2010 to 2012 possessed the sum of K2 131 180 000 obtained from the Malawi Government through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship services knowingly that the same in part, directly represented proceeds of a crime, namely corruption.”
Batatawala was arrested last week alongside three co-accused persons in relation to conspiracy to defraud by inflating the market price of 500 lockers procured by the Immigration Department from Africa Commercial Agency under contract number IM/01/85 dated March 22 2010 valued at K2 950 560 per unit price totalling to K1 475 280 000.
Batatawala’s co-accused were released on bail last Friday. They are former Department of Immigration and Citizenship Service chief immigration officer Elvis Thodi, the department’s commissioner responsible for operations Fletcher Nyirenda and deputy director Limbani Chawinga. At the time the alleged crime was committed between 2009 and 2012, Nyirenda was head of research and planning while Chawinga was deputy head of research and planning.