The State yesterday paraded its first two witnesses, who included former ambassador to Ethiopia Chimango Chirwa, in the K293 million suspected fraud case at the Malawi Embassy in Addis Ababa exposed in 2016.
Chirwa testified alongside Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) manager responsible for international transfers Boston Malikete in the case involving former deputy ambassador to Ethiopia Doreen Kapanga and former secretary for administration and finance at the mission Fletcher Chowe.
Kapanga and Chowe were arrested in May 2016 and granted bail at K1 million bond each. They are suspected to have siphoned K293 million ($409 790) of public money which they allegedly deposited in personal accounts.
In his testimony before the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court Malikete, who was the first witness, gave evidence on seven transactions amounting to $406 000 that RBM on instruction from Accountant General processed as monthly funding to Addis Ababa at the time.
Taking his turn, Chirwa, who served as ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union at the time, told the court that he intercepted a $31 000 cheque which was to be cashed by Chowe and had been signed by the accused persons.
He said Kapanga had no authority to sign cheques at the time as she was on recall.
Said Chirwa: “When asked [Chowe] could not give explanations as to the reason for the cheque but kept apologising, saying it was an error. Kapanga also denied any knowledge of the cheque but her signature was on it.”
During cross-examination, Chirwa said he only came to court to testify on facts and had no idea of technical terms of charges the accused were answering.
During the last court appearance, one of the defence lawyers, Khumbo Soko, submitted to the court that State witnesses need to be recalled to testify before the new chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa for the suspects to be accorded a fair trial.
Chirwa granted the request.
In an interview after the hearing Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni said the State was satisfied with the progress of the case.
He said: “We shall endeavour to make available to the court the rest of the witnesses albeit within and without Malawi.”
On his part, one of the defence lawyers, Gift Nankhuni, expressed hope that the case will not face any hiccups so that it is concluded considering that it had dragged from 2016.
The case has since been adjourned to August 30 2021 when the State will continue parading witnesses.
The State is expected to parade six witnesses and one of whom is based in Ethiopia.
Theft of public resources at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia prompted government to write the Auditor General to conduct independent audits in all other missions, beginning with those which have not been audited in the recent past. n