Saturday 19 August 2017

Malawi: Police Seek Arrest of Ex-President in Corruption Scandal

Malawi: Police Seek Arrest of Ex-President in Corruption Scandal
(Voice of America 08/02/17)

Malawi police have issued an arrest warrant for former president Joyce Banda, saying they wish to question her about her suspected involvement in the 2013 Cashgate corruption scandal.

The arrest warrant for Malawi's former president comes nearly four years after the Cashgate scandal first broke.

In 2013, a British auditing firm hired by the government discovered $32 million in government funds had been paid fraudulently to contractors, in particular private construction companies, for goods and services that were never delivered.

Ten people have been convicted of theft and money laundering, including the supposed ringleader, former ruling party official Oswald Lutepo. In all, about 70 people have been arrested.

Police say investigations have continued and they have “unearthed credible evidence” of the involvement of former president Joyce Banda and need to question her.

Malawi police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, spoke to VOA.

“The evidence gathered raised reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offenses relating to abuse of office and money laundering,” he said.

Kadadzera said Malawi police have notified all Interpol member countries of the arrest warrant.

The Cashgate scandal was a major blow to Banda’s administration. Malawi temporarily lost much of its foreign aid, and Banda lost her bid for re-election in 2014. She had ascended to the presidency just two years earlier after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died in office. Banda was his VP.

Banda left the country to pursue personal business interests and is currently in the United States.

Banda's spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya told VOA Banda is yet to be served with a warrant.

“When we see the warrant and when we get that confirmation, she will make herself available to the police,” said Chanthunya.

The timing of the arrest warrant has left some Malawians, like this business owner, asking – why now?

“Issues to do with Joyce Banda being connected to the Cashgate have been there since she went out power. If the government is committed to arrest her, there were so much talks, evidence given in court during that time. It is much more political than the fight against corruption,” said Lizinet Bandawe, a business owner in Blantyre.

In the wake of the Cashgate scandal, the current government pledged to crack down on corruption to reassure foreign donors.

In mid-July, police arrested former agriculture minister George Chaponda and two other individuals in connection to another scandal, known as Maizegate. They are accused of illegally procuring 100,000 tons of maize from neighboring Zambia.

By Lameck Masina

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