BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-One of Malawi’s media giants, which boasts excellence and leading the pack in the media industry, has been hit by fraud.
A seemingly reputable media corporation, Times Group, had unknowingly harbored a group of conniving employees who meticulously orchestrated a grand scheme to defraud the company of billions.
Our sister paper, The Malawi Voice has a firsthand account of how the deceitful workers crafted a scheme to defraud Times Group shareholders of their company fortunes.
This is the story of how their audacious plan unraveled, revealing a web of deceit, greed, and the lengths to which some individuals will go to satisfy their insatiable appetites for affluent lifestyles.
Veronica Masikini, the blue-eyed charismatic finance executive entrusted by the man-in-charge of the media giant, Leonnard Chikadya, to run the finance affairs of the company and manage its accounting books, and her close-knit group of cohorts –Victor Katimba, a brilliant long-time employee who slouched to the level of Chief Accountant, and Robert Mbweza, a manipulative financial officer who was entrusted with preparing data—recording and crunching numbers to be used for budgeting and planning purposes for the company might have used such data waywardly to achieve the trio’s fraud scheme’s intents.
Instead of managing company risks, Mbweza strategized on how they would siphon money out of the giant media company, while his accomplice Katimba instead of ensuring the credibility of the company accounts that they were in accordance with the standards set by management, under the watch of Masikini, dipped their hands to the bottom of the company’s kitty, almost milking it to the point of death while they brazenly basked in plenty with the ill-gotten wealth.
The trio, so Malawi Voice is told, slowly abandoned their initial mediocre lives within the corporate world, and slowly became filthy rich and built villas and established business empires after obtaining substantial wealth through illicit means over a period spanning close to 18 years.
Malawi Voice has details of how the trio in a fashion reminiscent of the all-time Hollywood film series Marvel, “Money Heist”, notwithstanding its execution in bloodless fashion, still qualifies to be its sequel.
While the man-in-charge of the company, Chikadya, basked in the glory of trust of his lieutenant Masikini, oblivious to her heinous mind, the trio discreetly overcharged invoice payments, made false purchases and fraudulently signed and issued cheques, money which ended up in their pockets and they invested it in building their own business empires and turning themselves into business magnates overnight and satisfying the affluent lifestyles they lived.
Katimba’s dissatisfaction with his salary and constant allure of living a luxurious life acted as a catalyst, while Mbweza’s knowledge of financial loopholes and Masikini’s ability to manipulate company gross figures proved crucial in creating the false impression that the company was in dire straits. Together, the trio devised a meticulous scheme that would allow them to siphon off billions of Kwacha unnoticed.
“No wonder every year, the company fired employees owing to poor performance,” one observer said, adding that the company would not have been firing its employees wantonly every year as it used to.
The trio elaborately defrauded Times Group of close to two billion kwacha in the most atrocious scheme they meticulously orchestrated. Katimba manipulated the accounts as Mbweza covered their financial tracks, and Masikini used her feminine prowess to distract the upper management to avoid any suspicion and detection. The trio used their knowledge of loopholes and weaknesses within the company’s financial controls and systems to manage to embezzle a staggering amount of money undetected.
What lead to the cat being let out of the bag was a small fish in the Finance Department who was aware of the scheme but chose to keep quiet until the Chief Accountant called him to account for peanut petty cash money as compared to what the trio had stashed in their bottomless pockets.
The pressure from the Chief Accountant to force the finance officer to account for the money compelled him to reveal the hideous scheme as the junior finance officer became increasingly paranoid about possible disciplinary action from management leading to his dismissal.
The junior officer in the accounts resorted to adopting a preemptive action and rushed to tell Chikadya about the fraud scheme perpetrated by the trio.
Chikadya, who was incandescent with rage at the news, called for a board meeting that unanimously agreed to suspend the trio indefinitely pending the results of a forensic audit. It is said the trio, fearing reprisals from management, tendered their resignations which were turned down by management.
“They were told that they should wait for the results of the forensic audit before they can resign,” confided a person close to the story.
Malawi Voice has it on good authority that the trio has been asked to agree to a deal where they would offer to articulate how they would repay the ill-gotten money in exchange for their freedom.
“Chikadya has vowed to have them arrested if they decline the deal. You must understand that the three deprived the company of resources which could have been reinvested and declared as profits and dividends to the shareholders,” he said.
Times Group has a newspaper company—Blantyre Newspapers Limited, Times Television (TTV), and Times Radio under its fold.
For many years the company has earned the reputation of firing its employees every year owing to its apparent poor performance despite being a vibrant media giant in the country.
The media group belongs to former Malawi leader Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s family.
Source: Malawi Voice