21 July 2017

Malawi: Chaponda, Accomplices to Face Joint Graft Charges - ACB

The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director and its prosecutor Reyneck Matemba has said the bureau will apply to court to consolidate the charge sheet of former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Geogre Chaponda, CEO of Grain Traders Association, Ms Grace Mijiga Mhango and Transglobe boss Rashid Tayub inconnection with the Zambia maize deal in 2016.

The three have been released on bail but their case is scheduled to be heard from August 9, 10, 11 and 14.

Matemba said the bureau will consolidate the charging sheet so that all should answer their cases at one place.

Matemba said when the bureau called defense lawyers last week asking for their clients to appear before ACB, Chaponda and Tayub chose to appear in Blantyre offices while Mijiga opted for Lilongwe.

"We will be applying to the court to consolidate the charges. We separated the charge sheets to avoid transferring the suspects, either from Lilongwe to Blantyre or from Blantyre to Lilongwe for formal charging," said Matemba.

Chaponda, a former diplomat and lawyer, was sacked in February after he was implicated in a deal to import $35 million worth of maize from neighboring Zambia.

At the time, 8 million people in Malawi, nearly half the population, faced severe food shortages caused by drought.

Chaponda was placed under investigation following a recommendation by a presidential inquiry into the procurement deal. The inquiry found he had flouted procedures by hiring a private broker to import the maize, which is the main staple of Malawi.

He is also accused of sourcing the grain, in contravention of ministerial rules, for personal gain.

Chaponda and Tayub were charged with the offences of misuse of public office and possession if foreign currency without the lawful justification and influencing a public officer to misuse public office respectively and have since pleaded not guilty toall the offences.

Corruption has been prevalent in Malawi's public sector, and in 2013 several high-ranking officials were implicated in the "Cashgate" scandal, which involved large-scale looting of government coffers.

International donors pulled the plug on aid of around $150 million after auditors said at least $30 million was stolen from state coffers over a six-month period.


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