Blantyre, Former Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda alongside Director of Transglobe Export Produce Limited, Rashid Tayub spent their Wednesday night at Blantyre Police station pending bail application in court today (Thursday).
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Chaponda and Tayub for their alleged involvement in the dubious maize purchase from Zambia. Also arrested in the same case was Grace Mijiga Mhango, President of the Grain Traders Association of Malawi.
The two were separately interrogated by the ACB before being arrested. ACB says it had the warrant of arrest from 14 July.
At exactly 5:50 PM on Wednesday, a vehicle carrying Chaponda and his co-accused left ACB offices for Blantyre Police station as people who had gathered outside the ACB premises thought there were being taken to court.
The accused are likely to spend a night at Blantyre Police station because ACB finished interviewing them very late. In such case, they might be taken to court Thursday (Today) for bail hearing, said a Senior Officer from ACB who did not want his name to be mentioned.
A visit by Malawi News Agency (MANA) to Blantyre Police station on Wednesday night revealed heavy security with limited visitation. However, most business people of Asian origin were seen going inside and out the Blantyre police station.
Chaponda who is Member of Parliament for Mulanje South West and also Vice President of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for Southern Region, handed himself in the morning around 8:30am at the ACB offices in Blantyre in the company of his lawyers Jai Banda and Frank Mbeta and many supporters while Tayub arrived silently and walked in like any ordinary person as most people did not recognize him.
ACB said Chaponda is likely to be charged with corruptly performing public functions, misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency contrary to section 25A (1), 25B (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act and Regulation 25A(1) of the Exchange Control Regulations Act respectively.
ACB publicist Egrita Ndala told media that Tayub is likely to be charged with influencing a public officer to misuse his public office contrary to Section 25 B(2) of the Corrupt Practices Act while Mhango according to the ACB ‘will likely be charged with forgery contrary to Section 351 of the Penal Code.’
Tayub and his company are suspected to have played a crucial role in the flawed and suspicious procurement of maize from Zambia by Admarc.
Earlier in the evening Wednesday night, there was drama at ACB offices when Chaponda and co- accused were about to be taken to Blantyre police.
The police prevented journalists from taking photos of the accused and this angered people gathered outside ACB offices who started shouting and eventually attacking a vehicle that carried Chaponda.
But police managed to control the crown and whisked Chaponda away to Blantyre police station using a double cabin white vehicle.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Chaponda following investigations of flouting procedure in the unpopular maize sham that hit the Ministry of Agriculture he was then heading late 2016 dubbed the Maize-gate.
He was arrested for allegedly flouting procedures in the procurement of 100,000 tonnes of Maize from Zambia by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Cooperation (Admarc).
Through a press statement, Ndala, downplayed allegations that the ACB has been under political pressure from the executive to obstruct justice in the matter for political reasons.
We wish to make it clear to the public and all stakeholders that the ACB remains an independent professional institution which operates independently without any influence from anyone. The process of investigations can be complicated and needs to be conducted with due process and detailed care, reads part of the statement.
The statement further says the bureau empathizes on speedy investigations, but procedures need to be observed.
In a democratic environment, any investigation needs to follow procedure as required by the law. In Some cases, investigations are sometimes derailed when accused persons are members of parliament and are under parliamentary immunity (when parliament is sitting), read part of the statement.
President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika who is on record to have said his government has zero tolerance for corruption in February fired Chaponda from his ministerial position to pave way for investigations.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA