Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Malawi have bashed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for its decision to not prosecute State House Chief of Staff Prince Kapondamgaga who is alleged to have received K70 million and a Mercedes Benz from corruption suspect Zuneth Sattar.
National Advocacy Platform (NAP), Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS), Human Rights Defenders Coaition (HRDC), and Nyika Institute (NI) released a statement yesterday in which they called out the ACB.
After an extensive investigation into corrupt practices linked to Zuneth Sattar, during which 84 individuals were suspected of receiving Sattar, ACB last year concluded that Kapondamgaga had corruptly benefited from Sattar.
However, in a dramatic twist of events, on July 7, 2023, ACB announced that it had exercised prosecutorial discretion by choosing not to file criminal charges against Kapondamgaga in the corruption investigations.
Instead, ACB entered into an agreement with Kapondamgaga for the restitution of a Mercedes S-Class 350d and K70,150,674.00, an advantage he allegedly admitted to receiving from Sattar.
ACB justified this discretion on the grounds of “insufficient evidence” against Kapondamgaga.
The CSOs have expressed concern over the conduct of the ACB, saying the decision on Kapondamgaga lacks both legal and moral foundations.
“There is no legal basis for ACB to enter into a restitution agreement or amnesty of this nature. The Corrupt Practices Act, which governs the operations of the Bureau, does not provide for any scheme or provision under which ACB can exercise ‘prosecutorial discretion’ not to lay charges against an individual under investigation,” reads part of the statement signed by Charles Kajoloweka, executive director of YAS.
The CSOs further argued that the questionable and covert amnesty reinforces fears of selective justice by law enforcement agencies since several individuals accused of accepting or receiving benefits as inducements for favors from Sattar, including Vice President Saulos Chilima, former Minister Kezzie Msukwa, former Inspector General of Police George Kainja, and former ACB Director Reyneck Matemba, have not been offered a restitution deal to return their property and avoid prosecution.
“ACB’s discretion is both unconstitutional and illegal, and we strongly call for its immediate reversal,” reads part of the statement.
The CSos also demanded the bureau to update the public on the status of investigations regarding a vehicle which former Minister Eisenhower Mkaka is alleged to have received from Sattar.
“Despite the completion of the investigation several months ago, there has been no apparent action taken,” the activists said in their statement.
They also expressed concern over the bureau’s decision not to renew a restriction on Sattar’s accounts and assets following the expiration of a court order in August 2023 that restricted the accounts and assets.
This means Sattar who is accused of defrauding Malawi Government of billions of Kwacha, is able to access his funds.
“Meanwhile, assets of other suspects linked to Sattar have remained restricted. We call upon the Bureau to account for this oversight and expedite the renewal of the restriction order,” the CSOs said in their statement.