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Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda insists that amnesty remains the most viable and faster way to recover public assets from suspects convicted of defrauding the government.
But anti-money laundering law expert Jai Banda has faulted the AG’s line of thinking, saying no one has ever come forward to pay back the money before an arrest is made.
In an interview on Tuesday, Nyirenda said Capital Hill can easily recover resources through amnesty as the court process takes longer than necessary.
He said: “I stand by what I said on amnesty despite people being against it. This would have been the most ideal way to recover resources for government. We have examples of some criminal cases that have taken more than five or 10 years without being concluded. What do you think would have been better between the two?
“By the way, this amnesty would not be applied to all and sundry. It would be applied to those who genuinely showed remorse, have useful information leading to successful prosecution of principal offenders and fully restituted.”
But the AG said nothing was being done “at the moment” to have the amnesty brought back.
Banda, on the other hand, said amnesty was not the best panacea, observing that the arrangement implies that government does not want to take people to court which was a wrong assumption.
He said: “I don’t recall that after the AG mentioned amnesty last year, someone came forward to return any money. Was there any effort because I never heard of any individual? I doubt that people will come back and surrender money just like that.
“People are entering into plea barganing rules after they are arrested. The court process is better as one may get court order provided under Financial Crimes Act for property to be attached in respect of convicted persons or even before conviction, especially on preservation orders.”
The AG’s sentiments come after five Cashgate suspects recently dodged imprisonment after paying back the money they stole while three others are negotiating with the State to reimburse the funds and be discharged.
In an earlier interview, revered prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu said President Lazarus Chakwera followed the law in condemning amnesty and faulted the AG for acting out of the law.
“He [Chakwera] is not saying anything new, it is the AG who is acting differently. You remember it was in their manifesto, but when they came into power, they removed it. It means the AG did not talk to the leadership of the Executive,” he said.
Malawi Law Society president Patrick Mpaka also said the AG’s amnesty position has no legal basis, and that Nyirenda had taken a risky path in opting for it
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