Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Corruption: Malawian opposition supporters angry ex President may face graft charges ahead of general election

Supporters of Malawi's opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) have strongly condemned the announcement by the government that former President Bakili Muluzi could soon be facing graft charges ahead of the May 19 general election.

The supporters claim the move is yet another ploy by President Bingu Wa Mutharika to thwart the former president's bid to return to power after handing over power five years ago. The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been investigating the former president for the last two years on allegations he diverted about 11 million dollars of public money into his private bank accounts. The money was to have been donated by Taiwan, Morocco, Libya and other international donors. Alex Nampota is the director of the Malawi Anti Corruption Bureau. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the case against the former president has no political undertones.

"I may not say much since this matter is still under investigation. But the allegations we are following relating to acquisition in regard to the former head of state Dr. Bakili Muluzi of a sum amounting to one point seven billion Malawi Kwacha into his personal account. It is believed that the money is public funds," Nampota said.

He denied the ongoing investigation against the former president is unlawful.

"In terms of our law if an individual is found to be in possession of pecuniary resources proportionate to his income, official or other none sources of income, we are entitled to question the public officer to explain how he got that resource or those resources. We got that amount, we assessed his income throughout his 10 year duration and we found it disproportionate. We are requesting for him to explain how he got those resources. If the explanation is reasonable, we will not do anything, but if the explanation is unreasonable or there is no explanation at all, we may have to take a decision to charge him," he said.

Nampota refused to give a set time within which the former president could possibly be charged with graft but said it could be before the general election.

"I can't mention the period, but I am sure that would be fairly soon. Considering the fact that this case has taken unusually too long," Nampota pointed out.

He denied the possible graft charges against the former president are politically motivated.

"First and foremost, I think it has to be appreciated this is primarily a legal matter, it is not a political matter. The issues did not start before this election. The bureau did attempt to seek an explanation from him (Muluzi) three years ago. But the former president obtained an injunction to restrain the bureau from proceeding with the investigation under the pretext that he would want to challenge the powers of the Anti Corruption Bureau in the constitutional court," he said.

Nampota said although the court granted the order restraining the Anti- Corruption Bureau from temporarily proceeding with the investigation against the former president, he failed to make use of the concerns he initially raised.

"The court gave him an order stopping us from investigating, but he never pursued the judicial review or the questions he had to challenge the ACB in the Constitutional Court for three years. After three years, it was only then that the bureau could go and plead that there is an ordinate delay in prosecution of his matter that the stay order that he had obtained an injunction against the Anti Corruption Bureau should be removed so that the investigations go on," Nampota pointed out.

So, far the Anti-Corruption Bureau has asked Muluzi 700 questions and gave him 21 days in which to respond to the new allegations. The Bureaus director adds that records show that over $11 million from countries like the republic of China, Libya and Morocco, among others, meant for state development projects ended up in Muluzi's private bank accounts.

The former president is also being questioned to explain why on three different occasions he drew funds from the consolidated fund at the central bank when he was in Japan and Tanzania.

The former president however, maintains his innocence claiming that he is waiting for his day in court to clear his name ahead of the general election. His attorneys have so far refused to answer the ACB's questions, claiming that the questions are unconstitutional and illegal.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits