22 February 2018

Malawi: DPP Rejects Chaponda Claims Cash Found Stashed in Suitcases From 'Blue Night' - ACB

Photo: Nyasa Times
Embattled Agriculture minister George Chaponda.

A prosecution witness has told the court that the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rejected claims made by former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda that thousands of dollars and millions of Kwachas found by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) stashed inside suitcases hidden in the bedroom of his house during a search, belongs to the party.

Chaponda is second-in-command in DPP as its vice-president responsible for the Southern Region and parliamentarian for Mulanje West.

He is being accused of corruption in the procurement of maize from Zambia.

Testifying before Zomba Magistrate Court, prosecution third witness Robert Mbuzi Mkandawire, senior investigations officer for the ACB, who searched Chaponda's residence in Lilongwe where they found money in various currencies, said they were told by Chaponda that the money was realised from a Blue Night function which the DPP held in Blantyre.

"When we found the money in the house, he told the bureau that the money belongs to DPP but when we verified with the party, they denied," the ACB investigator testified.

Mkandawire stated that when the graft-busting body inquired from DPP treasurer-general Henry Mussa, also Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and Nicholas Dausi, a senior DPP member and Minister of Information and Communications Technology, about the issue, they both denied that the money was realised from the Blue Night.

"We checked his accounts, he did not withdraw any money,. This is eveidence enough that the money was obtained corruptly," he said.

The investigator said Chaponda told ACB that he did not have any liecence to keep considerable amount of foreign currency.

Chaponda had also told the ACB that he used to keep forex in his suitcase whenever he gtravelled abroad, hence it accumulated, according to the witness.

But defence lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho accused Mkandawire of telling the court lies, saying he could not prove his sentiments pertaining to a licence of possession of foreign currency that Chaponda obtained from Minister of Finance in 2004.

Chokhotho said Mkandawire's testimony was not in his sworn statement of witnesses.

Mkandawire said he has seen the licence but said he doubted its "credibility" and needed to prove "the date " and "whether indeed tje Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe , authored it."

Between US$58,000 and MK124 million in cash was found after a search at Chaponda's home last year.

The cash stashed in suitcases reminds Malawians of the biggest corruption scandal called 'Cashgate' scam which involved fraudulent government payments for services not rendered and for "ghost pensions" to fictional government retirees.

Corrupt officials pocketed the money, using it to buy smart cars and mansions -- or simply stuffed bundles of US dollars and Malawi kwacha in car boots, handbags and pillowcases, hence the "cash" in "Cashgate.

Chaponda is answering three charges which include giving false information to ACB, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency. He has constantly denied any wrong doing.

He was arrested by ACB in July last year on suspicion of corruption relating to procurement of the K26 billion maize from Zambia.

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