Saturday, April 13, 2024
Law and orderNational

Malawi a no-go zone for fraudsters as AG declares war on past and present criminals; £516,975.21 recovered from Barkaat

AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda

By Sitilitha Mpembenji

Days of committing crimes with impunity in Malawi are gone as the administration of President Lazarus Chakwera, through the Attorney General’s (AG) office, has put in place a robust system to trace and bring to justice any fraudster who dares to defraud the country’s public pulse.

This is well demonstrated in the recent recovery of the stolen public funds amounting to £516,975.21 (about K601,444,911.92) following the fraud committed by Barkaat Food Limited (Barkaat) and Bova Investments Corporation (Bova).

Malawi was duped money amounting to US$727,000 (K750 million) for the procurement of fertilizer meant for the Affordable Input Program (AIP), a program that aims to reduce poverty and ensure food security at household and national levels by increasing access to improved farm inputs.

Unlike the previous regime, which created potential channels for unscrupulous business moguls, Chakwera and his administration quickly advised the finest AG Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda to do everything possible to recover the stolen money saying every penny in the public pulse must be jealously defended from criminals.

In a statement by the AG’s office, it is indicated that criminal proceedings against the company commenced last year in November.

“After being alerted to the fraud by red flags, the FIDOR Bank AG and the German authorities acted swiftly to intercept and freeze the funds in the bank account of one Andrei Grünbaum, an Estonian collaborator of Barkaat and Bova, in July 2022.

“Criminal proceedings were commenced against Mr. Grünbaum in November 2022 by the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Munich. Significant achievements were registered in the matter by March this year. In May, 2023 the judgment against Mr. Grünbaum was made final, and proceedings for an order confiscating the funds from Mr. Grünbaum and directing restoration of the same to SFFRFM were commenced,” the statement reads in part.

According to Chakaka-Nyirenda, the proceedings were successfully concluded on Thursday, 17 August 2023, when the Munich Court directed that the €516,975.21 be repatriated to SFFRFM’s bank account in Malawi.

“The funds have now been received by SFFRFM. The successful outcome of the case is a testament to the robustness, effectiveness, and efficiency of the German justice and legal system,” the statement reads.

Malawi’s AG has further applauded the judicial system of Germany for its impartiality in the handling of the case.

In a related development, the AG hinted that Police have apprehended and charged one of the principal fraudsters in the United States of America.

“On a further positive note, efforts are continuing in the United States of America by the Camden County New Jersey Prosecutors and the Police, where the Police have apprehended and charged one of the principal fraudsters. His trial is commencing next month,” reads the statement.

In an apparent reference to the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which left the country’s economy in tatters due to corruption, Chakaka-Nyirenda has warned that his office will vigorously pursue recovery efforts against individuals who defrauded the country in the past.

The AG says such crooked activities left innocent Malawians harmed and his office will leave no stone unturned “until what belongs to Malawi is recovered from them and they are faced with justice.”

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