Malawi 'Cashgate' scandal official jailed for 11 years

2015-09-04 18:58
(File: AP)

(File: AP)

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Zomba - Malawi's high court on Friday sentenced former senior official Oswald Lutepo to 11 years in prison for his role in the "Cashgate" corruption scandal that led to a cut in foreign aid to the impoverished country.

Lutepo was the chief suspect in the fraud, which was the biggest financial scandal in Malawi's history and helped push former president Joyce Banda out of power at last year's elections.

"The convict will serve a total of 11 years in prison," Judge Redson Kapindu said in his ruling, adding that the scandal had had a "bad impact on Malawi society and those responsible should be held to account”.

He said Lutepo was "clearly a major player in this grave economic crime against the people of Malawi."

Lutepo, who had previously pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of $9.3m, looked composed as the sentence was handed down, and said he would appeal.

"The judge has been inconsiderate, because I pleaded guilty on my own undertaking," he told AFP in the heavily-guarded court.

"That should have been considered."

Lutepo was given eight years for money laundering and three years for conspiracy to defraud the state due to "the exceptional gravity of the offences and the gigantic sums of money involved," the judge said.

"I have found no single case of such huge proportions in Malawi," he added.

Lutepo, who accuses Banda of being behind the scandal, was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of pocketing money from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.

The scandal, which originated in 2005, prompted foreign donors - who provide around 40% of Malawi's budget - to pull the plug on aid worth around $150m.

An audit ordered by former president Banda found that $30m had been looted by officials in less than six months in 2013.

Dozens of civil servants, business people and politicians have been implicated in the scam.

Four people have now been jailed.

"I am happy with the verdict... this is what I expected," Reneck Matemba, deputy head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau which was prosecuting the case, told AFP.

Lutepo attended court in a wheelchair saying he was too unwell to walk but the judge dismissed his claim.

Read more on:    malawi  |  east africa

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