Ex-Malawi leader on corruption case: ‘I am innocent’

Former President Joyce Banda will return to Malawi for first time since 2014 to defend herself in the Cashgate scandal.

Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda
Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, centre, has been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2014 [File photo: Reuters]

Malawi’s former president denied on Tuesday any wrongdoing in a corruption scandal that erupted when she was in office, saying she will return to the southern African nation to prove her innocence.

Joyce Banda is wanted for arrest over alleged abuse of office and money-laundering offences, police said on Monday.

More than 70 entrepreneurs, officials and civil servants have been charged in connection with the embezzlement of what is thought to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers between 2009 and 2013.

Banda, who was Malawi’s president for two years from 2012, left the country when she lost in an election to Peter Mutharika. She has not returned since 2014.

Banda has been living in the United States, serving as a distinguished fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC.

READ MORE: ‘Cashgate’ trial begins in Malawi

“I will be coming back because I never did anything wrong and I am innocent,” Banda told Reuters news agency in a telephone interview from South Africa, where she had arrived from the US.

“I am the only president who got to the bottom of corruption and instituted the first-ever commission of inquiry into corruption,” she added.

She was expected to proceed to Malawi after carrying out some charity work in South Africa.

James Kadadzera, a police public relations officer, said authorities had obtained an arrest warrant for Banda.

“The evidence gathered raises reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering,” he said in a statement.

While president, Banda ordered an independent audit of the corruption revelations, which was conducted by British firm Baker Tilly. The findings were released in 2014.

“Baker Tilly never linked me to any corruption and the rest is what everyone knows, that even some of my cabinet members were arrested. I never shielded anyone who was found to have been part of this,” she said.

A former justice minister and attorney general was convicted over “cashgate”, as the scandal came to be known, and is in jail, along with a number of former high-ranking government officials and business persons.

The corruption scandal led to international donors halting aid to Malawi.

Source: News Agencies