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Malawi’s MK53 billion Immigration saga: AG Silungwe must take Batawalala’s firm head on

embattled businessman Abdul Karim Batatawala

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-Without shame, two companies owned by businessman Abdul Karim Batatawala have written the office of the Attorney General (AG) asking to settle out of court a matter in which the firms are demanding MK53 billion from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.

But AG Chikosa Silungwe, in an interview on Monday, said he would defend the case, rejecting the out of court settlement option.

Other law experts and social commentators have commended AG Silungwe for not allowing the case to be sorted out side the court.

They have argued as to why Batawalala has resolved this path when his company robbed Malawians heavily.

The two firms—Reliance Trading Company and Africa Commercial Agency—dragged the Immigration Department to court, demanding over K53 billion payments for items they claim to have supplied to the government in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

In letters to the AG dated June 7 2021, through Nampota and Company, the two firms indicate that they want to settle the matter out of court to save taxpayers’ money while ending a protracted standoff that benefits no one.

“We wish to advise that our client has instructed us to approach you, on a without-prejudice-basis, with a view to exploring possibilities of discussing this matter out of court amicably,” the letters read.

The communication says the matter was already in the process of an out of court negotiated settlement to avoid costs before it proceeds to trial.

“It is our client’s view that if we proceed with the negotiated amicable out-of-court discussions, we will achieve a speedy and less costly result as opposed to the manner in which we are proceeding now. Please advise us whether our client’s proposal is acceptable to you and indicate to us when you are available for such negotiations,” the letter reads.

In the letter, one of Nampota and Company’s lawyers, Alexius Nampota, indicates that settling the matter out-of-court would lead to a speedy conclusion and “avoid costs before it proceeds to trial”.

“It is our clients’ view that if we proceed with the negotiated amicable out of court discussions, we will achieve a speedy and less costly result as opposed to the manner in which we are proceeding now,” Nampota says in the letter.

In a separate interview, Silungwe confirmed receiving the letter but said the government would not settle the matter out of court.

“We are not settling the matter out of court. We are defending the claim in court to the end,” he said.

Former AG Kalekeni Kaphale last year indicated that the government was willing to negotiate with the two suppliers.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau, Public Procurement and Disposal Assets Authority (PPDA) and Fiscal Police have in the past failed to establish any wrongdoing in the award of the uniforms’ contracts at the Immigration Department, indicating that the firms followed all bidding processes that the department had put in place.

However, in his letter to ACB last month, asking it to investigate the Immigration Department’s uniforms’ deal, Silungwe accused people at ACB, Fiscal Police and PPDA of being compromised.

In a dramatic turn of events the former Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM) this distanced his government from words going around that his government had cleared one Abdul Karim Batatawala from matters related to corruption and money laundering.

Speaking through his spokesperson Linda Salanjira said that the matter came on his desk but advised the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), Fiscal Police, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and Immigration to desist from toying around with the idea of clear the business man and his companies African Commercial Agencies and Reliance Trading Company.

Karim is said reportedly summoned by the then Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale and the Director General of ACB then Lucas Kondowe to go through the files of the two companies and the many cases involving the owner Batawalala.

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