By IOMMIE CHIWALO
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has demanded prompt action by giving Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) seven days to probe entities and individuals named as source of loans where former Salima Sugar Company Chairman obtained without colllateral as indicated in the Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) uncovered through a recent audit report.
In a letter address to FIA Chief Jean Phillipo Priminta, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa says the probe is just a necessary stitch in time considering that according to the leaked audit report, the transactions were done without collateral and the said entities are not registered as financial lending institutions.
“This provides reasonable ground to suspect acts of money laundering and in a worst case scenario, what can stop someone to think that some of the funds are proceeds for crime given that such huge sums of money were carried as cash,” queries Namiwa.
He said this is a matter of national interest and that a prompt action is needed before his organisation decides to take the next course of action.
Namiwa says, though established with good intentions from public stakes through the Greenbelt Authority, almost eight years down the line, Malawians are yet to reap the fruits of Salima Sugar Company only to learn of the massive financial plunder.
The CDEDI Chief has therefore argued that Salima Sugar Company as a public entity, Malawians have a right to know the unknown persons who gave out MK191 million to its former Chairman Sherieesh Betigiri.
Namiwa says the action from FIA is more necessary now because what has happened is contrary to the initial aim of establishing Salima Sugar Company which was an attempt to bring in competition with the expectation to serve the common good for the majority poor, currently struggling to access the basic commodity.
The recent forensic report on Equity Contribution, Loan Capital and Utilization shows that being a summary of the source of Malawi Kwacha (MK) 3.741 Billion AUM SAL equity contribution that was meant to be paid in United States Dollars (US$D) shows that Pacific Limited get loan amounting to MK1.8 billion on September 21, 2021.
It also shows that Mount Meru Millers Ltd obtained MK1 billion on October 18, 2021 and that Mphoto Enterprises got its share of MK600, 000 on September 1, 2022.
As if that is not enough, the audit report states that Rajash Salien (R Mart) got MK25 million on September 8, 2022 and that the same R Mart Investments received money amounting to MK75 million on September 8, 2022.
Meanwhile, CDEDI is still pursuing *sugar prices must fall* campaign that culminated into the historic public inquiry into the sugar production and pricing in Malawi by the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry, led by its Chairperson, Hon Paul Nkhoma, between Thursday July 13, 2023 and Friday July 14, 2023 where a number of stakeholders in the sugar value chain presented their submissions.
Sugar prices must fall campaign, apart from forcing government to reduce sugar prices, is premised on a notion that neither government nor cane growers in Chikwawa, Salima and Nkhota-Kota are benefiting from the sugar industry, known for its huge profits year in year out.
Following what transpired during the submissions at the two-day inquiry, CDEDI on August 26, wrote the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) requesting the tax collecting body to probe Illovo Sugar Malawi on Transfer-pricing allegations.
The letter was followed by in-camera handing over ceremony of MK36 billion tax by Illovo Sugar Company to the MRA.
The audit report has exposed politicians, senior government officials and business magnets involved in Illicit financial flows.