Embassy assets sold, money untraceable

Embassy assets sold, money untraceable

Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda is probing cases where government officials in Malawi embassies in Namibia, South Africa and the United Kingdom (UK) allegedly sold State assets that included houses, but could not account for the proceeds.

The AG said in an interview on Saturday that his action on the matter is part of his civil assets recovery plan aimed at recovering properties and money stolen from government.

Nyirenda: Disposals were suspicious

But Chakaka Nyirenda said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will continue playing his role by bringing to book officials connected to the alleged illegal disposal of State assets.

“These assets that were disposed of include houses and I know these properties. Embassy houses were sold without following laid-down disposal of public assets procedures. Worse still, the money cannot be accounted for,” he said.

Chakaka Nyirenda said some of the transactions date back to the time the United Democratic Front (UDF) was in government, adding that his office has names of ambassadors who oversaw the transactions and officials involved.

The AG said the disposals of the assets were suspicious and had all marks of criminal activities. In some cases, he said, agents used cannot be traced.

DPP Steven Kayuni said in a separate interviewing on Saturday that on special directions of the AG, they were liaising with Inspector General of Police for a team of investigators to get to the bottom of the illegal disposal of State assets abroad.

“Saboteurs to the economy will have to be pursued and reclaim what lawfully belongs to Malawians,” he said.

Meanwhile, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira has commended the AG and the DPP for the move to recover the stolen assets.

He said the country continues to suffer losses through theft and fraud and it was commendable that the AG and the DPP have shown commitment to recover stolen State assets.

On the 100 State enterprises that were disposed of through privatisation, which the AG once said was a vehicle to rip off Malawians, Chakaka-Nyirenda said he was also taking steps to recover assets that were not properly privatised.

In a related development, a recent audit report by the Auditor General for selected ministries, departments and agencies, including some embassies, has revealed that properties that belong to the Malawi Government at the Johannesburg Consulate in South Africa have no ownership papers.

The audit on financial and other information for the Malawi Consulate in Johannesburg is for the years ending June 30 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was completed in March 2020.

This is not the first time the country’s embassies have been embroiled in such controversy.

In Ethiopia, an unspecified amount of funds was channelled into personal accounts while in Belgium, there was a self-authorisation of allowances to the tune of K12 million as well as a remittance of K18 million without a corresponding deposit.

At the Malawi High Commission in London, K58 million was withdrawn for State residences, but was not accounted for.

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