Paul Mphwiyo: Cashgate Alleged Kingpin Reportedly on the Run

Paul Mphwiyo is a former budget director in Malawi facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering

Paul Mphwiyo, a key suspect in the Malawi corruption scandal popularly known as Cashgate, is on the run just days before a high court judgment on his case is passed, the Malawi police have said. If convicted in that case, Mphwiyo faces over ten years in prison.

Mphwiyo, who once served as the Malawi Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance, was once heralded as the man shot in the face because he was fighting corruption.

“The majority of people in the security apparatus, including police and intelligence sources who have spoken to PIJ, believe Mphwiyo has escaped from prosecution,” the publisher reports.

In June this year, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the High Court of Malawi can issue a judgment in the nine-year K2.4 billion Cashgate case involving the former Ministry of Finance budget director and 17 others. Mphwiyo and his 18 co-accused had applied to the Supreme Court to have their criminal trial to start again because the new presiding High Court Judge, Ruth Chinangwa, had taken over the case, replacing Judge Esmie Chombo, who retired.

However, the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected their application.

According to PIJ, CCTV footage shows that Mphwio was last seen at Ryalls Hotel where he had just checked in after flying into Blantyre from Lilongwe.

“He booked himself at the affluent Ryalls Hotel at the heart of the Blantyre Commercial Business District, but only spent approximately ten minutes inside the hotel. He is seen on CCTV leaving the hotel on foot. He has not been seen since and cannot be reached on all his known mobile phone numbers,” reports PIJ Malawi.

Soon after, on June 26, Mphwiyo’s wife filed a missing person report with the Police in Lilongwe at Lingazi Station.

In an interview, National Police Headquarters spokesperson Peter Kalaya confirmed they had launched an investigation into Mphwiyo’s disappearance and suspect he is escaping from prosecution.

“In our investigations, we have found that he boarded a plane and disembarked at Chileka Airport and went to Ryalls Hotel. As police, as we are investigating this, we are also concerned by the fact that he is answering criminal charges, and he might be escaping from the law.”

What is Cashgate?

Cashgate is Malawi’s biggest corruption scandal by the sheer volume of government money that was stolen—estimated at over $100 million, and the melodrama surrounding how the scandal unravelled. After government employees, businesses and politicians conspired to pay themselves public funds via mostly fictitious accounts, junior public officials were found with wads of cash stashed in cars and ceilings before the near-fatal shooting of Paul Mphwiyo shocked the nation.

Former Malawi Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara, his associate Pika Manondo and ex-military personnel Macdonald Kumwembe were later found guilty of participating in the conspiracy for the attempted murder.

Mphwiyo was initially heralded as a hero when the scandal first broke. It was widely believed that he was shot fighting the corrupt barons that plotted Cashgate. However, the story took a dramatic turn when Mphwiyo was arrested on Cashgate-related charges.

Mphwiyo was described by one of the co-accused, Leonard Kalonga, as the Cashgate kingpin.

In May 2020, seven years after the Cashgate, Mphwiyo was found with a case to answer by the High Court.

Source: PIJ Malawi