Malawi ex-president, Joyce Banda, wanted by police over $250m corruption case
A Malawian court has granted the police a warrant of arrest in respect of the country’s former president, Joyce Banda.
According to a police statement tweeted by a journalist in the country, the order is in respect of a corruption scandal that took place during her tenure as president.
“The Malawi police wishes to inform Malawians that its Fiscal and Fraud Section conducted some investigations on the suspected involvement of the Former President in ‘cashgate’ cases and unearthed credible evidence.
The evidence gathered raises reasonable suspicion that the Former President committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering.
“The evidence gathered raises reasonable suspicion that the Former President committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering,” the statement added.
The case in question, the ‘cashgate’ saga, is on record as the country’s biggest financial scandal. It is said to have involved loss of about $250 million.
Malawi police are said to have asked for INTERPOL’s assistance in arresting Mrs Banda who is currently out of the country. She has yet to comment on the arrest warrant.
The 67-year-old served as the country’s president between April 2012 to May 2014. She is founder and leader of the People’s Party which was established in 2011. She had previously served as vice-president to late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
She took over power after her boss died in office but she heavily lost 2014 elections to incumbent Peter Mutharika.
BLANTYRE, MALAWI —
Malawi police have issued an arrest warrant for former president Joyce Banda, saying they wish to question her about her suspected involvement in the 2013 Cashgate corruption scandal.
The arrest warrant for Malawi's former president comes nearly four years after the Cashgate scandal first broke.
In 2013, a British auditing firm hired by the government discovered $32 million in government funds had been paid fraudulently to contractors, in particular private construction companies, for goods and services that were never delivered.
Ten people have been convicted of theft and money laundering, including the supposed ringleader, former ruling party official Oswald Lutepo. In all, about 70 people have been arrested.
Police say investigations have continued and they have “unearthed credible evidence” of the involvement of former president Joyce Banda and need to question her.
Malawi police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, spoke to VOA.
“The evidence gathered raised reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offenses relating to abuse of office and money laundering,” he said.
Kadadzera said Malawi police have notified all Interpol member countries of the arrest warrant.
The Cashgate scandal was a major blow to Banda’s administration. Malawi temporarily lost much of its foreign aid, and Banda lost her bid for re-election in 2014. She had ascended to the presidency just two years earlier after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died in office. Banda was his VP.
Banda left the country to pursue personal business interests and is currently in the United States.
Banda's spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya told VOA Banda is yet to be served with a warrant.
“When we see the warrant and when we get that confirmation, she will make herself available to the police,” said Chanthunya.
The timing of the arrest warrant has left some Malawians, like this business owner, asking – why now?
“Issues to do with Joyce Banda being connected to the Cashgate have been there since she went out power. If the government is committed to arrest her, there were so much talks, evidence given in court during that time. It is much more political than the fight against corruption,” said Lizinet Bandawe, a business owner in Blantyre.
In the wake of the Cashgate scandal, the current government pledged to crack down on corruption to reassure foreign donors.
In mid-July, police arrested former agriculture minister George Chaponda and two other individuals in connection to another scandal, known as Maizegate. They are accused of illegally procuring 100,000 tons of maize from neighbouring Zambia.