The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday, 19 August 2021, interviewed former President Peter Mutharika on allegations that his Taxpayer Identification Number (TPIN) was unlawfully used by some people to import cement worthy K5 billion, while he was in office, evading tax at the back of his duty-free status as a sitting Head of State. Former security aide to the former president Norman Paulos Chisale; former State House Director of Residences Peter Mukhito; former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Director General Loza Mbilizi; and a Lilongwe-based businessman of Asisan origin Mahmed Shafee Ahmed Chunara were arrested were arrested in connection with Mutharika’s TPIN abuse.
However, during the ACB probe through interviews to Mutharika, the former president opted to invoke his Miranda Rights, causing the interrogation to last only ten minutes. One of Mutharika’s lawyers, who opted for anonymity, confirmed the development to Shire Times.
Miranda Rights (also known as the right to remain silent) were created in 1966 as a result of the United States Supreme Court case of Miranda versus Arizona. It is intended to protect suspects from self-incriminating answers. However, a lawyer speaking to Shire Times on condition of anonymity disclosed that “Miranda Rights do not go into effect until after an arrest is made, which was not the case with Mutharika as he has not been arrested yet”.
“After placing a suspect under arrest, the officer will say something similar to; ‘you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. At that point, the suspect is qualified to remain silent and not any moment earlier. In this case, silence can be used against the suspect if it occurs before the Miranda Rights are read to him”, he said.
Initially, the ACB had announced that it intended to interrogate Mutharika on 20 July 2021, but the bureau rescheduled the interviews to Tuesday, 27 July 2021 after Mutharika had requested for more time to prepare. After his grace period, Mutharika issued a statement on Tuesday, 27 July 2021, accusing ACB of flouting legal procedures among others.
“In August 2020, the Fiscal Police questioned me under caution regarding the use of my personal Taxpayer Identification Number (TPIN) during the time I was the President of Malawi. The matter related to unauthorized use of my TPIN in the importation of cement by other people. I issued a statement that clarified my position in that matter denying my involvement. Surprisingly, the ACB who never questioned me in any way froze my accounts citing the alleged use or misuse of my TPIN in that transaction,” said Mutharika in his July written statement adding that; “it is strange that an institution like ACB with accusatorial and investigative powers would seek to interview me without disclosing the nature of offences that I am accused of. In view of the previous conduct of ACB towards me, I am reluctant to grant this interview”.
According to Mutharika, who is famed to be a lawyer, the ACB’s freezing of his bank accounts using information from the Fiscal Police exonerates him from further criminal investigations and prosecution over the saga, an assertion that has been trashed by some lawyers.