By Nenenji Mlangeni
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi Government on Friday insisted that former president Joyce Banda’s (JB) warrant of arrest in connection to massive plunder of public resources dubbed Cashgate at Capital Hill is still in enforce and once the prosecution team is ready, she will be arrested.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Henry Mussa together with Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu Friday took a swipe at JB for claiming to be innocent in as far as Cashgate cases are concerned.
However, JB’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya said this is a political witch-hunt and it is unfortunate that the three ministers who have nothing to do with investigations on corruption would make such statements.
“This is not the first time that the Cabinet ministers have made such allegations, have they done anything about it? No. There is nowhere in the Baker Tilly investigation report that Joyce Banda was mentioned to be among the 72 suspects,” he said.
Mussa, during a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, said the court has evidence that JB was involved in the looting of public resources.
“The evidence that has so far been gathered as well as testimony given in courts by those who have been convicted and are serving jail sentences clearly points to Dr Joyce Banda as the initiator of Cashgate. And it is that evidence which led to the issuance of the warrant of the arrest,” he said.
Police obtained a warrant of arrest for JB on July 31 2017 for her alleged involvement in Cashgate cases.
Malawi Police spokesperson James Kadadzera then said police gathered evidence that raised reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering.
JB’s attempts for a judicial review of the warrant of arrest saw the High Court dismissing the application.
At the briefing, Mussa said government believes that, in fullness of time, the former president shall be called to account for her part in Cashgate.
Tembenu said the matter is in the hands of the prosecutors who developed the strategy of handling such issues.
“A criminal case never gets rotten. We have left it in their [prosecutors] hands on when they want to pursue the case so long as there is evidence. Based on Baker Tilly report, we developed a strategy of handling those cases from contractors, civil servants and then to big people, that’s why you have most cases to do with involvement of contractors,” he said.
Mussa said JB should not take responsibility on Cashgate alone but also on the sale of presidential jet.
He said the government cannot trace the proceeds of sale of the presidential jet which he said was sold at $15 million (approximately K11 billion).
He said only 10 percent of the proceeds was used to buy maize.
On March18 this year, at a press conference on Malawi Congress Party and People’s Party electoral alliance, JB reiterated her position that her hands are clean in as far the sale of the presidential jet is concerned.
She said Cabinet made the decision and the transaction involved Chief Secretary to the Government, the Attorney General and Secretary to the Treasury.
In 2009, Bingu wa Mutharika administration bought a 14-seater Dassault Falcon 900EX presidential jet at about K16.5 billion but JB administration sold it at a reported K11 billion, apparently to use the money for “pressing needs”.
JB is also on record as having said she took decisive steps by commissioning a forensic audit that exposed abuse and loopholes in the public finance management.
JB returned home in April 2018, four years after self-imposed exile in the United States and South Africa.
On her return, she repeatedly said Interpol investigated her for nine months and found her clean on the allegations of Cashgate.
In 2013, there were revelations that some civil servants siphoned over K30 billion from the government coffers in a space of two years in Cashgate.
Top government officials used fellow civil servants, especially in Information Technology Department and at Accountant General’s office, to log onto Integrated Financial Management System remotely to steal public money.