Friday, March 1, 2024

Namiwa, the barking dog that was sent to guard a thief; Salima Sugar looting saga


Shame has quickly visited Silvester Namiwa, founder and chairperson of Centre for Economic Development (CDED), a pro-DPP civil society wing. CDED was formed quickly after the DPP was kicked out of power in 2020 to operate as an opposition entity from the civil society front. Accordingly, CDED has been undertaking assignments on behalf of DPP interests.

The latest assignment involved Namiwa calling for the government to vacate a court order that froze Salima Sugar’s bank accounts, pretending to argue that the freezing of the accounts has crippled the company’s operations and that Malawians employed by the company will suffer. Very lame and empty excuse it is!

In the face of criminal investigations, it does not even begin to be a proper argument to shield the company being investigated in the name of the company being an employer of ‘innocent citizens’. Corrupt administrators of companies use ignorant noise makers such as Namiwa, parading as bearers of people’s voice, knowing that they have no mind to apply to the situation. And when such noise makers convince themselves that their noise can move mountains, they shamelessly proceed without knowing they are purporting to stand in the track of justice.

Let us now proceed to the context of the matter: Namiwa’s political party – DPP – (by the way Namiwa was once State House Press Officer during Peter Mutharika’s reign around 2014/15 somewhere there), a party that famed itself with multiplicity of plundering and public funds syphoning schemes used Salima Sugar where government has ownership stakes, to syphon money into the party and its officials’ pockets.

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In November 2012 the Malawi National Assembly passed the Export-Import Bank of India (Loan) (Authorisation) Bill, authorising the Ministry of Finance to borrow the sum of USD 76.5 million from the India Exim Bank. Out of this loan amount, US$33.64 was used for the development of the irrigation network under the Greenbelt Initiative and the setting up of refined processing equipment in Salima under the Greenbelt Initiative. The remaining figure of US$42.86, according to the audit report was looted. Claims that this amount was used for procurement of fuel tanks and irrigation equipment did not come with supporting documentation and the said equipment could not be traced.

The DPP Government entered into public/private partnership with an Indian company and the joint venture between the Government and the Indian private company was called Salima Sugar Company Limited. The audit discloses that some subsequent transactions at the company including procurements and hiring of service contractors among others were replete with fraud and corruption, bypassing the public procurement laws. At least 21 shell companies were created by the same people or their close associates with which to carry out the fraudulent transactions that has drained billions of money from the company.

While Malawi Government, through the defunct Greenbelt Initiative Holdings Limited (GBIHL) invested a total of US$35,184,448 over and above US$25 Million guarantees that were made available to the Joint Venture for the development of a total of 1136 hectares of land, the Indian company, which was, to begin with, handpicked as a partner without following the Public-Private Partnership Act, has only contributed US$1.472 Million instead of the agreed US$17.1 Million for its share capital. Notwithstanding this, this private company has been at the center of managing operations of the Joint Venture in exchange of cooperating with the corrupt ends of the public officials who were essentially transacting on behalf of the DPP’s syphoning scheme.

Guess what? These Indian crooks made their hey while the sun was shining on them. They identified loopholes and they equally looted without mercy or shame. The 21 shell companies were opened and managed by them and most of these were incorporated overseas and within Africa. Breaching the duties of a director, fraud, money laundering, inflated pricing, non-delivery of supplies, over-invoicing, multiple invoicing, false description of goods, and phantom shipments were the norm in transactions relating to these shell companies.

Salima Sugar went ahead and opened three more bank accounts with FDH, First Capital Bank and MyBucks without Board approval. Chairman Shirieesh Betgiri and his son, Director Bruhat Betgiri (both Indians) were the only signatories. Additionally, the director went ahead to incorporate Salima Sugar Company Limited in Dubai without the knowledge of the Government and a bank account in the name of Salima Sugar Company Limited was opened in Dubai.

All these moves, according to the audit facilitated and aided the processes of money laundering and theft behind the Government’s back. Not really behind the knowledge of the public officials who were representing the government since these were fully aware of the fraud taking place and were beneficiaries of the same. This is what Namiwa, a renowned cadet operative of the DPP, intended to make noise accusing the Government of having taken the steps that it has taken. He was not acting on his own knowledge. He does not have knowledge to begin with. He was acting in service of his masters’ interests. They thought the truth would never come out in the open, so they banked on recruiting public sympathy from the gullible and unsuspecting section of the public. Unfortunately, it’s all out there and shame must highlight their foreheads before they are made to appear before courts to answer for these financial crimes against this country.



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