Malawi: Police Concludes Malawi Leaf K42 Billion 'Miracle Theft' Investigations

15 September 2021

Investigations into the K42 billion which 'grew legs' and miraculously vanished into thin air from a Malawi Leaf Limited bank account two years ago have been concluded and ready for the wheels of justice to get into motion, the Malawi Police Service have announced.

Malawi Police Service national spokesperson, James Kadadzera has disclosed that they had finalised the investigations into the K42 billion saga saying that they were ready to submit the files to the Ministry of Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda and Director of Public Prosecutions Steve Kayuni could not be readily available for their comments on the matter.

Said Kadadzera: "This means, therefore, that former top bosses (of the company) are expected to be charged for money laundering and fraud among other others," he said.

According to a police docket that Nyasa Times has seen, other charges include recording of stolen money as existing tobacco stock in warehouses when there was no stock and excessive and unjustifiable sales travel.

Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) Group owns Malawi Leaf and had been unable to pay staff salaries for over three months.

It is highly thought that it was the K42 billion scam that drove AHL Group into the financial quagmire.

The situation further forced AHL to seek a K6 billion government bail-out to cater for salaries of staff at both AHL Group and its subsidiaries.

In 2017, an audit at AHL Group had revealed a loss of K45 billion, of which K42 billion was posted by Malawi Leaf.

AHL Group spearheads 53 percent of the country's total tobacco exports.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson, Gift Trapence, has since welcomed the conclusion of the probe.

"We want justice on this matter. AHL and other parastatals have been centres of abuse by politicians and public officers.

"No wonder AHL staff have not been receiving salaries for months," Trapence said.

HRDC has since asked the Tonse Alliance-led government to conduct forensic audit at AHL to unearth all other suspected abuse of public resources and bring to book those responsible.

Said Trapence: "HRDC wants the audit to also be extended to other suspected public institutions to ensure that there is economic prudence everywhere."

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency, Executive Director, Willy Kambwandira, also welcomed the conclusion of the investigation but decried the pace at which the police worked.

"It is encouraging that Malawi Police has finally concluded investigations on the matter.

"Our concern though is that it has taken Police years to conclude the investigation and this sometimes affects evidence," he said.

Kambwandira said the timing of their conclusion vindicates fears that some oversight institutions were captured and could not independently perform their duties.

"It is our expectation that both Malawi Police and the Office of the DPP will move with speed to ensure that people suspected to have participated in the looting at Malawi Leaf face the law and our taxes recovered," Kambwandira said.

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