By Deus Chikalaza- Malawi Exclusive
The media reports that Asian Businessman Abdul Karim Batatawala got sick upon arrested on Wednesday, December 15, 2021, should not be tactic to dodge fraud charges against him.
On Thursday, December 16, 2021 Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) failed to continue interrogating Batatawala and take him to court for formal charging after he was taken ill and rushed to Shifa Private Hospital in Blantyre
It’s worrisome that ACB has given conflicting reasons for arresting Batatawala in connection with procurement contracts at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
In its press statement announcing the arrest of Batatawala in Blantyre on Wednesday, ACB stated that its investigations established that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services awarded the businessperson a contract without following procurement procedures, thereby costing the Malawi Government about MK4.7 billion.
The bureau added that Batatawala would be charged with conspiracy to defraud contrary to Section 323 of the Penal Code.
But a warrant for his arrest the bureau obtained from the Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court has cited a different charge altogether.
In the warrant the bureau states that Batatawala, in or around March 2010, allegedly conspired with others to inflate the market price of 500 lockers procured by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services from Africa Commercial Agency.
When asked about the disparities in an interview on Thursday, ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala said she was yet to see the warrant for arrest and that what she informed the public is what she was told regarding Batatawala’s arrest.
She said the bureau was going to take Batatawala and his co-accused, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services commissioner Fletcher Nyirenda, to court within 48-hour rule.
In a separate interview Batatawala’s lawyer, Alex Nampota, a former ACB director general, expressed surprise at the disparities in the reasons, but declined to comment, saying they will argue their case in court.
In all fairness Batatawala must not use his sickness to dodge formal charges upon arrested.
In recent years, Batatawala has emerged as one of the major suppliers of goods and services to government ministries, departments and agencies, including security agencies such as Malawi Police Service and Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
Batatawala’s arrest came a day after Malawi Government announced it had engaged authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assist it to recover unspecified sums of money suspected to be illicit which the businessperson and others allegedly stashed overseas.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni confirmed the move in a written response to a questionnaire on Tuesday.
According to court sources, there are more warrant of arrests for Fayas Muhammad of AKI Investment who has been supplying goods to the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) latest bring eight drones at an inflated price.
AKI Investment boss has been funding opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) activities through former President Peter Mutharika’s personal security aid Norman Chisale.