Police arrest 4 in Escom fuel theft

Police on Friday arrested four more people in connection with theft of 4.2 million litres of diesel meant for Aggreko Limited generators that the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) hired.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed, in an interview on Monday, that they arrested four suspects—two Rashy Transport tanker drivers and two Escom stores clerks.

The stolen diesel was meant for these generators

He identified the tanker drivers as Dosha Manuel and Ronald Mhango; and the stores clerks as Andrew Salama and Kenneth Kachere.

“The drivers are suspected to have used their tankers to take out fuel from three Aggreko Limited sites at Chichiri, Kanengo and Chinyama in Kasungu between January and June 2018.

“They are being interrogated in Blantyre. Their charges range from conspiracy [to defraud], theft by servant and money-laundering,” he said.

This brings to eight the number of people arrested in connection with the fuel scam.

The stolen fuel is worth K3.7 billion and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also leader of UTM, was the first to blow the whistle on the racket on July 31 last year, during the launch of his party at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre.

Soon after revelations of the fuel theft were made, police arrested a driver, a stores clerk and three security guards in Lilongwe, who were later released on bail.

Since then, Escom has been investigating how the fuel could have been stolen between the loading point at National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) and the generators at the said three sites.

A report on the fuel theft compiled by Escom head of security indicates that the company suspects collusion between drivers, fuel attendants, guards and Aggreko staff.

On the other hand, following the delay to investigate the matter, the office of the Ombudsman indicated, towards the end of last year, that it was set to probe Escom over the missing fuel.

A letter sent to Escom dated December 18 2018, signed by Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said her office had in recent observed a public outcry on Escom’s alleged irregularities and mismanagement of the fuel.

She said her office was aware the development resulted in the loss of 4.2 million litres of fuel procured with public funds, which could not be accounted for.

Reacting to the development, Escom chief executive officer Allexon Chiwaya, in a December 19 2018 letter seen by Nation on Sunday, assured the Ombudsman that they would comply with the investigation.

Police were being assisted by the National Audit Office in their investigation.

But on Monday Kadadzera could not say when the suspects would appear in court, arguing that interrogations were underway.

He could also not give the position of the cases regarding the initial four arrests.Towards the end of last year, Escom entered into an emergency power supply agreement with Aggreko to produce at least 78 megawatts (MW) of electricity using diesel-powered generators to sale to Escom

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