Cashgate suspect Angella Katengeza on Tuesday wept in the High Court in Lilongwe at the start of her defence in a case in which she is charged with money laundering K105 million.
Katengeza, whom convicted former assistant director of tourism Leonard Kalonga alleged was one of the people he recruited in a mission to defraud government billions of kwacha, told the court she had nothing to do with any of the charges levelled against her.
She said: “I have already said that these things [alleged theft of government money] involved people in government. I had nothing to do with it. I was merely being used.
“I am a 53-year-old woman who has never experienced such a scandal in my whole life and it scares me that I have been found in such a position. I did not steal any money.”
Before proceeding further, presiding judge Fiona Mwale asked Katengeza’s lawyer, Gilbert Khonyongwa, to find out from his client if she needed some time to compose herself.
After a brief chat with her lawyer, Katengeza proceeded: “[Mr] Kalonga told me that he had won a contract, but could not carry it out because he was a civil servant.
“When the cheques were ready, I would go and collect the cash as per his [Kalonga’s] request and gave him. The first cheque was worth K32 million and the second one was K69 million. In all [this], he [Kalonga] gave me K3 million which I used to renew my construction licence.”
During cross-examination, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director general Reyneck Matemba, representing the State, wondered why Katengeza jumped at Kalonga’s request to withdraw money without raising any suspicions.
He asked Katengeza why she did not withdraw the money in a lump sum.
In her response, Katengeza said she undertook the transactions as Kalonga requested.
But Matemba further probed: “You [Katengeza] told us you are a student and also a pastor. From that, I can comfortably say you are a busy person. How is it that you were able to find time and do some of Kalonga’s errands? Are you lying to this court? Let me remind you that you are under oath.”
These questions prompted the judge to seek further clarification from Katengeza whom the State found with some written reference notes.
Observed the judge: “I need some clarification, why did you not just withdraw the whole lot and give it to Kalonga so that he should deal with it since it was his money? Why did you not raise any suspicion? And the space in which the cheques were cleared, were you not surprised at all?”
To this, Katengeza said: “Of course, I was surprised. But he had told me that he was working on an emergency project. I withdrew the money as per his requests. We could not withdraw a lot because the bank would sometimes tell us that there is no money.”
Later, Katengeza withdrew the statement in which she said the banks had their limitations after Matemba accused her of lying.
The case has since been adjourned to the end of October for judgement.
Kalonga, who was convicted last week on his own plea of guilty, told the court that as part of the process to defraud government, he recruited Katengeza’s Faith Construction, among others.
Cashgate reached its climax after the shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 exposed the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
British forensic audit firm, Baker Tilly, established that between April and September 2013, about K24 billion in public funds was abused through payments for goods and services not rendered; inflated payments and payments without supporting documentation.
In May this year, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014.