Five cashgate suspects have been freed after they paid back about K136 million which they were accused of stealing from Malawi Government.
The five are Kettie Kamwangala, Fatch Chungano, Cecilia Ng’ambi, Sympathy Chisale and Ndaona Satema.
They allegedly stole the money around 2013 when billions of public funds were looted by public officers and businesspersons. The state has been struggling to conclude cases involving the looters.
Speaking to the Weekend Nation, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said the office of the (DPP) has concluded some cashgate cases and “has sorted others through settlement.”
One of the cashgate suspects Kamwangala was answering two charges of theft, contrary to Section 278 of the Penal Code and money laundering contrary to Section 35 of the Money Laundering Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.
According to The Weekend Nation, Kamwangala paid back K16.7 million. The other four, Chungano, Ng’ambi, Chisale and Satema paid back to the government a combined total of K120 million, including interest. After they paid the money, they were discharged from the K2.4 billion case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and others in August last year.
Citing court documents, The Weekend Nation reported that the state said it decided to drop charges against Kamwangala because she paid back with interest the money she was accused of stealing and that she had become a State witness in another equally important case.
However, the decision to free some of the cashgate suspect has led to concerns of selective justice as some cashgaters were convicted and went on to serve jail terms without being given a similar option.
Speaking to the Weekend Nation, Malawi Law Society honorary secretary Chrispin Ngunde, said there is nothing wrong with plea bargaining conducted within the parameters set by Section 252 A of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code (CP & EC).
He said: “Whether or not to engage in plea bargaining depends on the parties, [but] prosecution cannot be precluded from engaging in plea bargaining because previous similar cases were concluded without considering the option of engaging in a plea bargaining. [However] each case is treated on its peculiar facts.”
Published reports indicate that by November 2020, the state had secured 22 cashgate convictions out of 94 suspects who had entered trial. The Government had also managed to recover over K200 million, plots houses and vehicles from cashgate convicts.
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