Former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner-general Roza Mbilizi and two others walked to freedom on Friday after the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court released them on bail.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday arrested Mbilizi alongside former MRA customs and excise manager Fredrick Mpeusa and deputy commissioner responsible for enforcement and operations Abigail Kawamba for allegedly abusing former president Peter Mutharika’s tax-free privileges.
Delivering the ruling on Friday, acting chief resident magistrate (South) Chisomo Msokera ordered the trio to pay K350 000 cash bond each, provide one surety each for non-cash bond of K1 million, surrender their travel documents and to report to ACB offices fortnightly on Wednesdays.
In an interview yesterday, lawyer JamesMasumbu, who is representing Mbilizi in the matter, said the court felt that it was in the interest of justice to release the suspects on bail.
He said: “They [the accused] were just brought to court to be told the reasons why they were detained. But in relation to my client, I am told that the likely charge is going to be abuse of office.”
Masumbu said the accused were not formally charged as the ACB was not ready with the charges.
In a submission in support of the bail application, Masumbu said the accused are well-known Malawians with permanent residents in Malawi and that they cannot flee the country.
“For my client, she is already answering another case in Lilongwe and she has been on bail since 2020, but she has never bolted. So there is no likelihood that she can run away from this case,” he submitted.
ACB lawyer Chrispin Khunga, who is representing the State in the matter, was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
In a statement announcing the arrests and signed by ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala, they made the arrests following an allegation they received on July 7 2020 that some individuals were abusing the former president’s taxpayer identification number.
Reads the statement in part: “The investigation which commenced in August 2020 established that the three were facilitating duty-free clearance of various imported goods under CPC 418 belonging to the former president.
“They are likely to be charged with abuse of office contrary to Section 25B (1) as read with Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act and neglect of duty contrary to Section 121 of the Penal Code.”
Mbilizi is also answering charges in a similar case alongside Mutharika’s former private bodyguard Norman Chisale, former director of State residences Peter Mukhito and businessperson Ahmed Mohammed Chunara and his son Mohammed Chunara, for allegedly importing about 2 050 bags of cement using Mutharika’s privilege.
In April this year, the State revised value of money suspected to have been involved in the cement import case from K3.5 billion to K6.2 billion, excluding penalties, following the arrest of Ahmed Mohammed Chunara.
He is alleged to have imported 1 250 770 bags of cement duty-free on the basis that it was for Mutharika’s personal use.
The law allows the President and the Vice-President, among other public officers, to import some items for personal use duty-free.