Karim Batatawala arrested

Aslam Batawalala

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has arrested businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala over corruption.

Batatawala owns Reliance Trading Company and Africa Commercial Agency which were awarded six multi-bilion contracts by the Department of Immigration in 2009, 2010 and 2012 for the supply of uniforms and other accessories.

ACB Director General Martha Chizuma has confirmed the arrest saying the businessperson has been arrested in relation to suspected corrupt practices in the procurement contracts.

She added that investigations have found that Batatawala may have stashed proceeds from the deals in overseas accounts.

In a statement, ACB Spokesperson ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said the bureau has also arrested Mr. Fletcher Nyirenda who is Commissioner responsible for Operations at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.

According to Ndala, investigations conducted by the Bureau established that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services awarded the contract to Abdul Karim Batatawala without following procurement procedures which led to Malawi Government losing MK4.7 billion.

“Mr. Batatawala is likely to be charged with conspiracy to defraud contrary to Section 323 of the Penal Code. Mr. Fletcher Nyirenda is likely to be charged with one count of abuse of office contrary to Section 25 B (1) as read with Section 35 of the Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to defraud contrary to Section 303 of the Penal Code,” she said.

Earlier this year, the then Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe told the ACB to investigate the suspicious awarding of contracts worth K12 billion to Batatawala.

Silungwe said the contracts worth K12 billion were not approved by the Secretary to the Treasury and the sums involved were more than the budget for the Department of Immigration.

The contracts also bared the same contract number and had a mere ‘no objection’ from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).

“The officers of the Department then entered into three contracts on the same day, 26th March 2012 at a staggering contract price of K12,344,108,400,” the AG said.

According to the AG, officers at the PPDA facilitated the suspicious contracts with ridiculous prices hence leading to suspicions that the officers were compromised in the execution of their duties.

Silungwe added that his office engaged the ACB over the issue in 2019 and the ACB handed the issue to fiscal police. When a follow up was made the police only provided a preliminary report cannot be filed in court.

After the contracts were entered in 2012, the uniforms were not supplied but in 2017 the suppliers wrote the Immigration Department saying the uniforms were due to arrive in Malawi.

The department however rejected the goods following legal advice from the Attorney General (AG) who argued that the period for delivery had elapsed.

The two companies then dragged government to court over the issue and is demanding K53 billion.

AG Silungwe demands fresh investigation into K12.3 billion Batatawala deals