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Malawi - Corruption

When he took office in 2014, President Peter Mutharika pledged zero tolerance on corruption and mismanagement. President Arthur Peter Mutharika says his administration is implementing new public management reforms in a bid to weed out corruption by ensuring accountability and preventing financial malfeasance.

Bakili Muluzis time as President was marred by controversy and scandal, particularly due to the sale of Malawis reserves of maize to other countries shortly before the onset of a drought, which resulted in famine throughout the country. Despite international pressure, the millions of dollars realized from the sale of Malawis food reserves have never been turned over, and it is widely suspected that it wound up in foreign accounts belonging to Muluzi and his supporters.

Even with the controversy and questionable dealings, Muluzi was a popular leader, particularly in southern part of the country. On July 27, 2006, Muluzi was arrested on fraud and corruption charges; he was released on bail later that day. Hours after his arrest, the chief investigator Gustav Kaliwo was suspended by President Mutharika and Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi said he had no choice but to drop the charges.

The Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Alex Nampota, announced on March 17, 2008 that the ACB intended to prosecute Muluzi for allegedly diverting about 11 million dollars of donor money into his personal account; Nampota said that the ACB had asked the courts to lift an injunction that prevented it from questioning Muluzi. Kennedy Makwangwala, the Secretary-General of the UDF, denounced this as political persecution.

Dr. Bakili Muluzi was once more arrested on 26 February 2009 and initially charged with 86 counts of corruption and abuse of office. He is being accused of allegedly diverting 1.7 billion Malawi Kwacha (US $11m) of donor money into his personal account. The said money, among others, came from the Republic of China, the Kingdom of Morocco and Libya.

Muluzi and his former personal secretary, Lyness Whiskey, are accused of stealing 1.7 billion Malawian kwacha ($12 million) during his 1994-2004 presidency. The funds came to Malawi as aid from Taiwan, Morocco and Libya. The former president has always said the charges were politically motivated. The trial opened in 2009 but has been subjected to several adjournments, partly because of Muluzis hospitalizations related to spinal problems. Both sides reject allegations that they have been deliberately delaying proceedings. Some saw political interference in the delays. Muluzi is part of the opposition UDF party, but the ruling DPP party joined forces with the UDF in parliament, and Muluzis son, who is president of the UDF, is a cabinet minister.

The September 2013 shooting Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo in Lilongwe exposed the corruption scandal known as Cashgate, in which more than 70 businesspeople and government officials were arrested. Gunshot survivor Mphwiyo faced charges in connection to the $32 million scandal. He was arrested in 2014 on charges of money laundering, theft and conspiracy to defeat course of justice. His wife was also charged with money laundering and theft. Commentators believe Mphwiyo masterminded the Cashgate scandal, and his shooting was due to a deal gone bad between him and the three men convicted. Former Justice Minister Raphael Kasambara was accused of conspiring to murder Paul Mphwiyo, while former Malawi Defense Force soldier Macdonald Kumwembe and businessperson Pika Manondo faced charges of attempting to murder and conspiring to murder.

Malawis government struggled to regain credibility after the massive Cashgate scandal in 2013 caused foreign donors to cut large amounts of aid. An audit revealed public officials had stolen $32 million in public funds [by another estimate, about $60 million of public funds were stolen]. The Cashgate scandal, as it was called, led to about 70 arrests and prompted the European Union and other foreign donors to cut aid. Malawi lost about $150 million in annual assistance. Much of that aid remains suspended pending reform of Malawis public finance system.

The investigation and prosecution of approximately 70 individuals, primarily midlevel civil servants arrested in 2013 for involvement in the theft of approximately 20 billion MWK ($55 million at the time) through fraudulent transactions--the Cashgate corruption scandal--proceeded slowly. As of September a total of 14 cases resulted in convictions, with prison sentences ranging from three to 11 years. At years end no high-level officials had been arrested or charged and prosecuted in direct connection with Cashgate. Former justice and constitutional affairs minister Raphael Kasambara received a 13-year sentence for conspiring to murder former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, who was on trial for his involvement in Cashgate. In March he was freed on bail pending an appeal. The states eight billion MWK ($10.6 million) corruption case against former president Bakili Muluzi, begun in 2006, remained stalled.

Uladi Mussa, the head of the ruling party, faced allegations he fraudulently granted citizenship documents to more than 50 foreigners in 2013 when he was minister of home affairs. Mussa was accused of taking bribes in exchange for issuing Malawian passports to foreigners during his time as home affairs minister under the previous administration. Mussa said, as the minister, he was signing the citizenship applications following the approval from police and immigration officials that an applicant had met all the necessary requirements.

Malawi's president set up a commission January 2017 to investigate Maizegate, a deal involving the recent purchase of maize from neighboring Zambia. Controversy was sparked in November when a local newspaper in Malawi published leaked documents that suggested possible irregularities during a government purchase of 100,000 tons of the staple crop from Zambia. Malawi had been importing maize to avert food shortages after flooding and drought wrecked last year's harvest. Malawi's state-owned grain trader, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation, or ADMARC, bought a large consignment of maize for $34.5 million from a private Zambian trader. The records allege that ADMARC could have purchased the maize directly from the Zambian government for $21.5 million.

Malawis president fired his minister of agriculture after investigators found cash worth nearly $200,000 in the ministers home. The raid was part of ongoing investigations into what has been deemed a suspicious maize procurement process from Zambia. The country's agriculture minister, George Chaponda, is under investigation following a recommendation from a government commission of inquiry that was formed in January to probe the recent purchase of 100,000 tons of maize from Zambia. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) raided Chapondas home and seized cash in various currencies, including $58,000 and 124 million Malawian kwacha.

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