Malawi Freezes Bank Accounts of Ex-President Mutharika, Wife Gertrude

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika ahead of the official welcoming ceremony by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the heads of state and government of states participating in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, 23 October 2019.
15 August 2020

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), acting in a graft investigation, has frozen bank accounts held by former president Peter Mutharika and his wife his wife Gertrude Mutharika after noticing strange withdraws in the course of the investigations it is carrying out.

The bureau has also ordered a freeze on the bank accounts of former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Director General Roza Mbilizi, and Mutharika's top security aide Norman Chisale.

The four are being investigated in a corruption affair involving the controversial importation of K5 billion worth of cement allegedly using Mutharika duty-free status for sitting presidents.

According to ACB sources, they have frozen two Mutharika accounts; one that is solely owned by the former president and another, a joint account with his wife.

Mutharika's personal secretary Linda Salanjira declined to comment on the matter, saying the former president's lawyers would be best placed to speak to.

Mutharika's lawyers Frank Mbeta and Samuel Tembenu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The former president has previously rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing, as he denied to have bought nor instructed anyone to buy or import the cement in question.

According to Mutharika, he did not, as he could not, request the Malawi Revenue Authority to invoke any of his privileges to clear the alleged consignment of cement duty- free.

"Further, the former President was never at any point undertaking any construction project (s) requiring such substantial volumes of cement," his secretary said in a statement.

Nyasa Times understands that former first lady Gertrude Mutharika had however construction projects.

Before Mutharika was ousted from power in the June 23 fresh presidential election, State House and MRA on June 16 justified the transaction as "within the law", as it was for personal use.

ACB has also frozen one account for Chisale and three accounts for Roza Mbilizi at NBS Bank, National Bank and Standard Bank.

Chisale's lawyer Chancy Gondwe said he does not have details of the frozen accounts.

Meanwhile, there are fears that serious capacity challenges facing State agencies including ACB may inevitably lead to compromised processes such as inadequate investigations that may result in failed prosecutions.

Private practice lawyer John-Gift Mwakhwawa described as an unhealthy situation at ACB where the graft-busting body's director general Reyneck Matemba is mostly the one moving from one court to the next because of capacity challenges.

He said it is therefore important to" enhance capacity" in all law enforcement agencies not just in terms of human resource but also funding.

The ACB boss who described the level of plunder of public resources in the immediate past administration as a 'Tsunami' said his office already approached government on the issue of inadequate funding and authorities have undertaken to look into the issues and address them.

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