Malawi Vice President faces prosecution for corruption and abuse of office
Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima is facing accusations for corruption and abuse of office for defrauding a man of his prime land in an upmarket location in the capital city, Lilongwe.
In an act of deceit, Chilima pressured the man into selling the land against his will and then evaded paying him the agreed amount of MWK27,200,000 an equivalent of US$37,000 for the land.
Chilima is also being accused of abusing his political office by influencing government departments to approve his application of ownership of the land using documents he acquired fraudulently from the original owner.
Chilima started exerting pressure on the man, John Fanwell Kagwa, in 2010. Chilima was then managing director of a mobile phone company, Airtel Malawi.
In a recorded video testimony, Kagwa reveals that he did not want to let go his land.
"I had no plans to sell my land. I wanted to construct shops to be letting them out so that I can earn money for my living. But through his agents, Chilima kept pressuring me into selling it to him. I was still in the process of securing the necessary documentation for a title deed. He kept pestering me until I yielded," said the now destitute man.
He had pegged the land at a price of MWK33,800,000 (US$46,000) but Chilima negotiated the price to US$37,000. By that time in 2011 when they reached agreement, he had finalized the documentation process but had not been paid the money.
In 2014 when Chilima became vice president, the transaction had still not been finalized yet and the seller hoped Chilima would process the payment faster now that he was in government.
However, in 2015 Chilima went behind his back and changed ownership of the land into his name using the documents his lawyer had acquired from the seller fraudulently.
Chilima's lawyer took the papers saying he wanted to photocopy them for his client's files. They never returned the documents.
Out of the sale price they had agreed, Chilima only paid out MWK 3,381,943 (US$4,600) through installments he had been giving the man to finalise the processing of the documentation for the plot.
But once he changed ownership, Chilima evicted the man from the land and demolished his small house where he was staying in.
According to a legal opinion prepared by a pro-bono lawyer, Chilima is liable to imprisonment for seven years for inducement, deceit, fraud and for abusing his office as vice president.
"The whole transaction was marred by fraud. However, this fraud was not raised by offices concerned. Mr Chilima managed to change the title into his own name without following the due process of the law. In other words, he used his authority to fulfil what he wanted. This was possible because of the office he is occupying. An inference of abuse of office can be deduced," reads the opinion.
The lawyer recommends that Chilima should be investigated and be prosecuted for breaching oath of allegiance and for corruption.
The case adds to the pile of questions raised by the public about his character.
Chilima rebelled against President Peter Mutharika who picked him as his running mate in 2014 election. He formed his own party. On the campaign trail, he has been agitating violence and attacking and insulting the President. This has led to questions about his morality.
He has remained vice president but absconding the duties while he continues to draw a salary. According to the Constitution, the President cannot fire the vice president. Malawians have expressed dismay that he is refusing to resign from a government which he brands as corrupt.