Malawi Parliament probe into Bingu ‘cashgate proceeds’ in offshore accounts

صورة AGORA moderator

Members of Parliament (MPs) in Malawi will finally launch an investigation into claims that the country’s former leader late Bingu wa Mutharika  – brother to the incumbent Peter Mutharika – has cashgate proceeds about K61 billion  ($85.3 million at current rate)  stashed in offshore accounts.

According to forensic reorts, the looting of public funds started under Bingu wa Mutharika’s Democratic Progrssive Party (DPP) were of a different nature to the Cashgate type that was instituted during President Joyce Banda’s reign. Under Bingu they were of the more typical over-invoicing and over-pricing variety.

Preliminary audits of government finances between 2009 and 2014, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and financed by the German government, indicate that at least K577 bn. ($807 mn.) could not be accounted for.

Later, the estimated loss was reduced to K236 bn. ($330 mn.), still a gigantic figure for impoverished Malawi, about one third of the government’s annual budget.

Opposition Peoples Party (PP) legislators, led by Mzimba West MP Harry Mkandawire and Kamlepo Kalua from Rumphi East, led calls for  investigations  in late Mutharika’s estate alleging he  ‘cashgated’ huge sums of money from the public coffers which he deliberately stached in offshore accounts.

Parliament secretariat is on August 10 expected to release funding to all committees, so that they can fulfill their oversight functions.

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Malawi national assembly recently raised concern that it was failing to summon leaders of law enforcement agencies on the issue of late Mutharika’s wealth due to a lack of funding.

PAC has said it would summon ACB  officials as well as  the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU),  Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) ,  Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), office of Director of Asset Declaration, office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as well as office of the Ombudsman to help in the authentication of the documents.

The Office of the Speaker of Parliament has formally authorised PAC to take over the preliminary probe efforts into the late Mutharika’s unexplained wealth.

Late Mutharika’s wealth was established by YMW Property Investment Limited after his death in 2012, and has become talk of scrutiny as Mutharika had declared his wealth to be about K150 million ($209 790)  in assets both in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Mutharika deposited the records with Parliament in August, 2004.

After seven years at the helm of government, he was a proud owner of farms in Kasungu, Salima, Mitundu- Bunda, and the most famed glamorous Ndata Estate. This is apart from real estates in Lilongwe and Blantyre including one brought from former president Bakili Muluzi.

Mutharika reportedly  also owned a hotel, a villa and a yatch in Portugal. He  was also founder and chairman of the Bineth Trust and the Bingu Silvergrey Foundation. He is also the founder of the Malawi University of Science and Technology on his Ndata estate land.

There have allegations by opposition politicians that funds stashed in offshore accounts belonging to the ex-president  – part of it was illegally obtained – and  should be brought back and utilised towards recovering the country’s ailing economy.

Malawi Law Society (MLS) has already  backed calls for a probe into former president Mutharika’s billions.

John Suzi Banda, MLS President, said that citizens of the southern African country had a right to know if money was looted during Mutharika’s tenure as president from 2004 until his sudden death in 2012.

MP Mkandawire, while presenting copies of a document containing allegations regarding Mutharika’s accumulated wealth, blew the whistle on Portuguese multidisciplinary engineering group Mota Engil that it has been front runners in providing bribes to grease the wheels of government contracts.

He highlighted that some of his money was accumulated through inducements from Mota Engil.

Mota Engil made separate cheque payments to the late president wa Mutharika personal accounts at some commercial banks from as low as K1 million (about $4 000) to as high as K10 million (about $40 000) at a time.

Among others, Mota-Engil made the cheque deposits into the late president’s personal bank account number 0140001886701 at Capital City Branch of Standard Bank.

One cheque worth K10 million was deposited into Mutharika’s Standard Bank account number 0140001886701 on March 3 2010.

On the deposit slip, the depositor only identified himself as Mota-Engil, but the signature is the same as the one on an FMB cheque number 9480 belonging to Mota-Engil.  The other signature on the three cheques is for managing director Antonmarco Zorzi.

The other two cheques are numbered 12570 (worth K2.5 million) and 12571 (worth K1 million). These cheques were written on March 24 2011.

Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu claimed that no evidence of offshore accounts existed, adding that the accusations should be dismissed.

The ruling DPP has since failed to disclosed how much the late president managed to accumulate while in office.

Nyasa Times,