The Malawi government claims it has CCTV footage of former president Joyce Banda’s 23 meetings with chief Cashgate suspect, Oswald Lutepo, and other senior People’s Party (PP) members at four different state residences in the country.
Banda is the founder and president of the People’s Party.
Malawi is investigating the disappearance of $48-million during Banda’s presidency, from 2012 to 2014, and $214-million during the rule of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, from 2004 to 2012.
Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa claimed during a news conference in the capital, Lilongwe, on Thursday that the government has since handed over the footage to the country’s corruption-busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), for forensic examination and further action.
He said the government also handed over documents that prove that Lutepo booked and attended the meetings with Banda between December 2012 and September 2013.
Banda, through her personal assistant, Andekuche Chanthunya, said the government’s claim about the CCTV footage is a desperate attempt to divert people’s attention away from the worsening economic situation.
He said the Malawi government is determined to implicate Banda in the scam through various means.
“It’s not strange that Lutepo and other senior PP members had meetings with Banda because Lutepo was an executive member of the party,” Chanthunya said.
Banda was the ‘mastermind’
Last week Lutepo, who is accused of having been fraudulently paid $6.2-million through his companies International Procurement Services and OG Construction, went on radio to say that, although he had swindled the state, he had personally delivered cash to Banda during her term as president. He says she was the mastermind behind the fraud.
“The alleged Cashgate master minders [sic] used my account as a conduit. I have been to State House several times to deliver the money,” Lutepo said, adding that if the CCTV footage did exist it would prove his allegations.
Banda said Lutepo and many others were under pressure from state agents to implicate her.
‘Citizens must know who stole the money’
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Bureau has said it was not aware of the CCTV footage or the documents referred to by Nankhumwa at the press conference.
“I have asked the ACB director and investigators handling Cashgate cases, but no one is aware of the alleged footage or documents,” the bureau’s deputy director, Reyneck Matemba, told the online NyasaTimes.
At the Lilongwe press conference, Nankhumwa failed to disclose the names of the senior PP members who accompanied Lutepo to the meetings with Banda or to show the media the copies of the CCTV footage and log books.
“We have no intention to influence the ongoing Cashgate cases, but we would like our law-enforcing agencies to do their work independently and without fear or favour,” he said.
Nankhumwa, who is also the Malawi government spokesperson, said the state’s role in the Cashgate cases is to facilitate access to information for the citizenry “so that they know who actually stole their money”.
Several State House sources, who did not want to be named for fear of losing their jobs, confirmed to NyasaTimes that, with the exception of Kamuzu Palace, the CCTV cameras at other state houses where the meetings between Banda and Lutepo were said to have taken place had stopped working six years ago.