By Mandy Pondani:
Karonga District Commissioner (DC) Richard Hara and Lupembe Ward Councillor Ernest Mwalughali risk arrest following their alleged involvement in defrauding a business person Kalim Ullah Khan of K22 million.
Khan, Malawian businessperson of Pakistan origin, claims that the two with aid of other intermediaries including his former employee John Mbinga took money from him promising land, contracts for some development projects and other business favours in the district.
A letter we have seen from his lawyers Jivason and Company gives Hara and his alleged accomplices to commit to reimbursing the money within seven days [from February 14] or else High Court proceedings will be commenced against them.
“We give you seven days to give us a true account of your involvement in the matter, referring to the various text messages you were sending to our client thanking him for the money you had been receiving from him,” reads part of the letter from lawyer George Kadzipatike.
Khan claimed in an interview Wednesday that he started giving money to Hara in 2018 but till now he has not been sold or given any type of property and contract as promised by the two officials.
He said last year he wanted to venture into rice farming and Hara assured him that he had about 11.5 hectares at Kaporo which he was willing to sell to him.
“The DC said he has land at Kaporo and also two houses, through my shop manager John, I started paying him money in millions. I first gave a deposit of K1.5 million for the land and K350,000 for each house but I was never taken to see the property,” he said.
In the course of the land deal, Khan, who complained that his family is now suffering since he has lost a lot of money in recent months, claimed that Hara also told him that he had 25 houses in various parts of Karonga which were up for sale.
“I was shown 11 deed documents which I was never allowed to take home with me or photocopy them for the rest of the transactions, but it later turned out that all the houses which the DC claimed he was selling belonged to other people that had no idea about my deal,” he explained.
Following the pressure from Khan, towards the end of 2018, it is alleged that Hara approached Khan and suggested that he should venture into construction business and that Karonga District Council would give him a contract to construct culverts (30) at Kaporo and Kayekerea and also Kayekera Health Centre all valued at over K72 million.
“The construction deal he said was for us ‘big’ men. He convinced me to give them K11 million saying I would get a lot more money in return. When I complained that I had accumulated a lot of debt, he said there was a lot of money in the deal for me which would enable me to procure a Fuso track to ease my work as a contractor, but all that was fake, aimed at ripping me off,” he explained.
Asked on how Mwalughali was involved in the scam, Khan disclosed that the Lupembe Ward representative demanded K2.7 million in order to push for the success of Khan’s bid to purchase the council’s slaughter house.
Upon following up with him, Khan said he was surprised when he was asked to re-apply for the structure.
“From nowhere, three more people were involved, they claimed they were sent by Mwalughali to me, they are Mwangosi who guised himself as a broker who has so far taken K441,000, another one is identified as Chimtengo demanded K670,000, they said the money was for processing my licence as a contractor. The last one is Kamwela who I paid K270,000 for business stamps, but there is nothing to show for all the services they said they would render to me,” Khan explained.
Adding: “On so many occasions, the DC, the councillor and their accomplices used to ask for money for Fanta and airtime which I used to give them, and I recorded in a book. As I speak, all the money has totalled to about K22 million. I feel victimised.”
Hara yesterday said he cannot comment more on the issue.
“I understand he has gone to court with the issue and I am afraid commenting could be contempt of court. But I can describe it as a case of bribery and corruption. He said he was giving money to people who would in turn help him get plots and contracts at DC office. I advised him to report such people to police,” he said.
But in one of his text messages to Khan on October 7 2018 from mobile number 0881542880 which we have seen he said: “Boss I received money, thanks very much boss God bless you.”
Mwalughali said he was not aware of the matter and that the news was strange to him.
Meanwhile, Khan’s lawyer George Kadzipatike has pledged to pursue the matter to the end saying it is unfair for local authorities to mistreat foreign investors in such manner which he observed gives Malawi a bad name as a nation.