BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The arrest of businessman Shafee Ahmed Chunara in 2020 in connection with the cement importation saga was the genesis of the decisions between the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steven Kayuni and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma, this publication understands.
Owner of Prestige Imports and Exports, Chunara was arrested following the general public’s outcry that among all those linked to the case, he was the only one who was being treated with kid gloves, allegedly because he was to be turned into a State witness.
Others arrested were former President Peter Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale, former State House Residences Director Peter Mukhito, and Malawi Revenue Authority Deputy Commissioner-General Roza Mbilizi.
“In the first place, Chunara was not supposed to be arrested. He was our key witness. However, his arrested changed the whole case set up,” said a source who refused to be named.
The source further said the arrest of his father, Ahmed Mohammed Chunara, worsened the whole plan, as he was a bait to have a witness in his son.
ACB arrested Ahmed in March, 2022.
On July 7, 2022, ACB arrested Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi alongside former customs and excise manager Fredrick Mpeusa and deputy commissioner responsible for enforcement and operations Abigail Kawamba for allegedly abusing former president Peter Mutharika’s taxpayer identification number (TPIN) free privileges.
“This was when DPP Steve Kayuni said enough in enough,” said the source
Kayuni feared that ACB’s decision to arrest the MRA officers has the potential to derail other ongoing cases, including the unexplained wealth charge and Preservation Order (Civil Forfeiture) proceedings against Chisale as well as the abuse of Mutharika’s TPIN in the Cementgate trial.
“The arrest of Chunara and his son, and the then the former MRA official left us with no key witnesses. It was a big blow to us,” said the source
“The rest of ACB file accused persons are the other agencies’ [FIA, DPP, MRA, MPS [Malawi Police Service] – Fiscal witnesses. A further complication and embarrassment to the State agencies is that of Norman Paulosi Chisale (NPC) and MRA managers. Your good office investigations have NPC as a state witness while in the Cementgate/TPIN he is an accused person number 3.
“Worse still, the three MRA managers are witnesses in the Cementgate/TPIN case while your good office has named them as accused persons.
“Madam Director, it is impossible to process prosecution in court on both files with this strange and alien approach.” read Kayuni’s letter in part.
A Commission of Inquiry into Chizuma’s arrest was told, by informed by the Attorney General (AG), Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda that the relationship between the DG of ACB and the DPP was strained because of differences in opinion in the course of executing their duties.
However, the Commission’s report indicate that the AG’s concern was more to do with lack of management of confidential information by the DG of ACB which was jeopardizing some operations.
The Solicitor General (SG) and Secretary for Justice, Allison M’bang’ombe informed the Commission that the DPP said ‘enough is enough’.
The SG informed the Commission that the relationship between the DPP and the DG of ACB was not cordial and that the Minister of Justice had tried to reconcile them, but the situation has not changed.
“The SG indicated in his opinion that the working relationship started deteriorating when the ACB had arrested the DPP’s witnesses in the infamous ‘Cement-gate’ which was then at advanced stage without consulting the DPP.
“Because of the arrest, witnesses were becoming uncooperative. The SG also informed the Commission that what also strained their relationship was the DPP’s refusal to grant consent for prosecution of the former Minister of Lands Honourable Kezzie Msukwa, MP,” reads part of the report