Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda says she is in possession of written confessions by suspects in the Cashgate scandal, which state that agents have been pressurising them to implicate her in the scandal.
Banda’s media liaison officer Tusekele Mwanyongo said Banda will make the confessions public at an “appropriate time”. None of the names have been made public yet.
Malawi is investigating the disappearance of $48-million during Banda’s presidency, and $214-million during the reign of former president Bingu wa Mutharika. The directorate of public prosecutions says there are about 70 suspects awaiting trial for fraud so far, and many more face arrest.
In a statement, Mwanyongo said that during her tenure, Banda “dedicated her efforts to ensure that all people involved face the law. The former president would like to reiterate that she has at no time during her tenure or at any other time, been involved in Cashgate”.
Two companies, International Procurement Services and OG Construction, owned by businessperson Oswald Lutepo pocketed $6.2-million. Lutepo is being tried by the high court on charges of laundering, theft and attempted murder.
Banda’s statement comes after Lutepo announced in radio interviews last Friday that while he had indeed swindled the state, he’d also personally delivered cash to Banda during her term as president.
He says Banda was the mastermind behind the fraud. “They [the alleged masterminds] used my account as a conduit. I have been to State House several times to deliver the money. If there are CCTVs (closed camera circuits), they will prove me,” said Lutepo.
Lutepo said his reason for going public was an attack of conscience. “Malawians have suffered and it’s time those involved come in the open and apologised to the nation, and ask for forgiveness and God’s intervention in righting our moribund economy,” he said.
In an apparent dig at current President Peter wa Mutharika, Mwanyongo said Banda encourages the country’s leadership to concentrate more on dealing with the worsening political, social and economic situation, than listening to a Cashgate suspect who has so far proved to be unreliable, untrustworthy and susceptible to manipulation.
In October, Lutepo, who pleaded not guilty to money laundering, theft and attempted murder charges, asked the high court to order the release of Banda’s call logs, saying they were relevant to his case and proved his innocence. The case is ongoing.
Legal experts say Lutepo’s about-turn means he is guilty of all charges the state has levelled against him.
“Lutepo’s allegations smell fishy, especially coming at a time when there is growing discontentment among Malawians, following the deteriorating economic situation. Calls for the return of Banda have grown louder, hence the demonisation campaign against her,” said Mwanyongo.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party denies coercing suspects to implicate in Banda in the scandal.