The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has rebuffed former minister of Agriculture George Chaponda who, through his lawyers, asked the bureau to return all the local currency worth K124 million confiscated from his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe.
In February this year, ACB confiscated money amounting to about K124 million, $57,000 and smaller amounts in other currencies, which were deposited at the Reserve Bank of Malawi.
In a letter addressed to ACB Deputy Director, dated August 4, 2017 and titled ‘Criminal Case No. 932 of 2017: Republic vs George Thapatula Chaponda and Rashid Tayub’ from Churchill & Norris Law Consultants, ACB is being requested to immediately release all the local currency that was seized from Chaponda.
“We are acting on behalf of the 1st accused in the matter, George Thapatula Chaponda, and we have noted from the charge sheet that none of the charges proffered against him relate to the Malawi Kwacha currency that was seized from him.
“Our client, therefore, demands the immediate release of all the local currency that was seized from him. We trust that we shall amicably resolve this straight forward issue,” reads the letter.
Responding to our written questionnaire, ACB Deputy Director, Reyneck Matemba, confirmed receipt of the letter but said the bureau will not return the money.
Matemba further disclosed that there was a meeting within the bureau involving officers who are handling the matter and a decision was made with respect to it.
“No, the bureau will not return the money. If you look at the letter from the defence lawyers, which you said you are in possession of, the basis of their demand for the return of the Malawi Kwacha [currency] is that none of the charges that were proffered against Hon Dr Chaponda relate to the Malawi Kwacha that was seized from him.
“But what needs to be appreciated is that those charges were holding charges, formal charges have been prepared and they include a count that relates to the Malawi Kwacha,” Matemba said.
Tamando Chokotho, who is listed as Managing Partner and contact person on the letter, refused to comment on the letter.
“I have no instructions to talk to the press on the matter,” Chokotho said.
ACB raided Chaponda’s residence following recommendations by a presidential commission of inquiry and a joint parliamentary committee of inquiry that the bureau and the Malawi Police Service must probe him further for his involvement in the suspicious import of maize from Zambia by the government through the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
The graft busting body also confiscated computers, files and other office equipment at the head offices of Transglobe Limited and Admarc, both situated in Limbe, Blantyre.
Meanwhile, Chaponda, Rashid Tayub, who is one of the directors of Transglobe, and Grace Mhango of Grain Traders Association were arrested by the bureau but they are yet to start appearing before the courts after they pleaded not guilty during their bail application last month.