The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has summoned the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to explain what they have found out about former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s estate, which a private valuer put at K61 billion in 2012.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) two years ago tasked the two institutions to investigate Mutharika’s wealth, which allegedly accumulated to K61 billion in eight years— up from K150 million which he declared upon assuming the presidency in 2004. Mutharika’s salary as president was K1 500 000.
In 2012, the Joyce Banda administration engaged property valuer YMW Property Investment Limited which put Mutharika’s deceased estate at K61 billion, a figure the family disputed.
PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said although the parliamentary committee did not specify the terms of reference for the agencies it requested, the committee wanted to establish whether the information [valuation] was correct and the source of Mutharika’s wealth.
Menyani also said PAC instituted the investigation to establish how the former president acquired his wealth and how he used to transfer around funds across the world.
He said PAC asked the two institutions to conduct the investigations in December 2016, after being requested by the Office of the Speaker following a motion in the House on the matter.
Said Menyani: “We did not draw lines on what and how investigations should be done by the institutions. Our concern was on whether the evidence we received was authentic enough and if so, the justification behind that wealth. That is why we officially sent the ACB and FIU letters to carry out their tasks.”
Menyani said they asked FIU to give a financial analysis of Mutharika’s wealth.
“Tentatively, we are scheduled to meet next month. As a committee, we are trying so much to refrain from putting strict timelines on the investigative institutions. We are aware that investigations of this nature take a lot of time. We don’t want to summon them prematurely and then at the end of the day, we are told there is no progress.”
But Menyani confirmed that none of the two institutions had so far submitted a status report on the investigation.
In July 2016, ACB director Lucas Kondowe told Weekend Nation that the bureau had not made any progress on the request by Parliament and promised to follow up the matter.
This week, ACB said the probe into the late Mutharika’s wealth has stalled because it did not have key information to enable it to make progress on the matter.
Said ACB’s senior publicist Egrita Ndala: “The ACB is still conducting investigation into the wealth of former president Bingu wa Mutharika. This investigation largely involves foreign countries and that depends on mutual legal assistance processes. In this case, the requesting country depends on the goodwill of the requested country to provide information.
“The bureau sent letters to various places requesting for information. At the moment, ACB is yet to receive such information. In a nutshell, the conclusion of the matter depends on receipt of the requested information; without which no further steps can be taken on the matter.”
ACB said the bureau had, among others, asked Interpol to help investigate suspected fraud relating to foreign bank accounts Mutharika held jointly with his daughter Duwa Kafoteka.
Private practice lawyer and an expert in matters of money laundering Jai Banda, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, blamed the Executive arm of government for not showing enough interest to see the matter come to its conclusive end.
Said Banda: “For me, what Parliament has decided is the right course of action to take. These two accountability institutions are both answerable to the House and, therefore, they are supposed to be answerable to the arm of government which engaged them. There is lack of political will to have this investigation conducted.”
He added that the investigation would have yielded results if the government made an effort to see it going.
Said Banda: “From the way I look at it, there would have been progress by now if the government was interested. But this is a betrayal of trust of the people who are waiting eagerly to know what this investigation will come out with.”
Mutharika’s estate was supposed to be taxed before his family started enjoying it.
FIU’s director Atuweni Phiri refused to respond to our questions.
The Ministry of Justice had not responded to our questionnaire on the matter.