BY PIJ INVESTIGATIONS
A search at Zuneth Sattar’s house in Leicester, United Kingdom, by agents of the National Crimes Agency, among others, found official correspondence between Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera and the Malawi Defense Force commander Vincent Nundwe.
Sattar also had in possession official letter exchange between MDF commander and Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).
A filing in UK’s courts by the NCA, which the Platform for Investigative Journalism has sourced, shows the extraordinary access Sattar had to the Malawi government.
Sattar, who was arrested in the United Kingdom alongside his wife Tahera and business associate Iqbal Rafik Ebrahim, is accused of an industrial-scale web of bribery and corruption that ran for decades in Malawi, earning over multi-billion contracts for a decade.
Sattar denies any wrongdoing and has vowed to clear his name.
Neither president Chakwera nor MDF Commander Vincent Nundwe has been named in either ACB or NCA corruption investigation but a close aide to the president, Chief of Staff Prince Kapondamgaga is named. The President in a recent address indicated that ACB investigations have so far shown that 15 members of the administration including some in the military, ACB, PPDA, and others, had a corrupt relationship with Sattar.
Reads the filing by the NCA: “The covert searches of his office premises established that SATTAR is in possession of internal government documents relating to these contracts which should not be held by anyone outside of the Malawian government. It is not yet known how SATTAR came to be in possession of these documents, but the nature of them means his acquisition must have been facilitated by someone involved in the procurement process.”
The President’s letter dated the 30th September 2020 showed approval for the signing of two contracts for the procurement of anti-riot equipment by the Malawi Defense Force.
The second official document, an Internal Malawian Letter dated the 29th September 2020 from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority to The Commander Malawi Defence Force was confirming PPDA’s approval of two contracts, signed off by Eillas E.D. Hausi the Director General.
Another document, an Internal Malawian Letter dated the 16th July 2020 from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority to The Commander Malawi Defence Force confirming PPDA’s ‘no objection’ to the Commander awarding the two contracts.
“The third page of this internal letter states ‘no objection’ approval is based on the review of documentation and approval of the board of PPDA and a no-objection granted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on the 16th July 2020 following their vetting of the process and suppliers. Eillas E.D. Hausi Director General then signs off the letter,” reads the filing.
The Malawian-born businessman is the subject of an unprecedented joint investigation by the UK and Malawi law enforcement agencies recently gave his first-ever interview to the UK’s Times newspaper in which he dismissed all allegations of corruption charged against him.
Sattar was arrested in October 2021 by the NCA in respect of allegations of corruption relating to three public contracts awarded between 2019 and 2021 with the Malawian government – relating to armored personnel carriers, food rations, and water cannons.
Sattar has not been charged with wrongdoing in the UK or Malawi.
The PIJ’s previous attempts to speak to Sattar did not yield any fruits but via court documents in our possession and through the Times interview, we are able to build a picture of his line of defense.
Sattar is represented by Simon Farrell QC, who recently in court described Sattar as an international businessman.
“He is an innocent man of good character and why should his business be turned upside down? He’s an international businessman crippled by this,” Farrell claimed, adding that his client believed that the NCA case was “misconceived.”
OPERATION SCUTTLEMAN: WATCH OUT FOR THESE HIGH-END CARS
BY PIJ INVESTIGATIONS
Watch out for any high-end cars out on the road. They could be one of the many that embattled businessman Zuneth Sattar sent to Malawi as part of an alleged bribery campaign to woo Malawi government officials to do Sattar’s bidding.
According to a filing in a UK court accessed by the Platform for Investigative Journalism, Sattar and his business associates sent several cars to Malawi to be gifted to various public officials.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) when arresting ex-Lands and Housing Minister Kezzie Msukwa revealed that the former minister received a Mercedes Benz from the businessman in exchange for intervention in land matters involving Sattar and the filing suggests more officials also were gifted vehicles.
The vehicles were in addition to other alleged gifts, payments, and free trips which Sattar rolled out to officials.
“It is believed that SATTAR has supplied multiple high-value motor vehicles to officials in Malawi as bribes,” reads the filing.
According to the filing, on the 28th of January 2021 Sattar’s business associate, Rafik Ebrahim, who was arrested alongside Sattar and his wife Tehara, exported to Malawi through his company Grand Motor Company, a UK-registered Mercedes S C200 motor vehicle, (approximate value USD 18,367) to Malawi via Tanzania.
“The recipient in Malawi was shown as a Nason Nelson KAYENDA, care of the Malawi Revenue Authority, Blantyre, Malawi. Nason Nelson KAYENDA has been identified as a Customs Officer with the Malawi Revenue Authority. It is believed that the vehicle was a gift to this customs officer, potentially in relation to support he may have provided to Mr. SATTAR and his associates,” reads the filing.
Following his arrest on the 5th October 2021, NCA officers searched SATTAR’s home address and recovered a five-page document belonging to one of his companies, Pyrite, dated 14th September 2021 and entitled, “Statement” which listed a large number of vehicles and many of these were shown as having been shipped to Malawi.
The records are summarized as follows;
om 11th July 2018 – a Mercedes S350d registration BU16YYK valued at £30,300 to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania,
18th September 2018 – a VW Tourag registration DF15FCD valued at £18,800 to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, on 24th December 2018 – Shipping and delivery for 2 cars to Malawi: BMW 340i and Range Rover SVR. Cost £7,800.
On 3rd August 2019 – Mitsubishi Fuso Truck shipping to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, charged £3,250,
On 13th January 2020 – Mercedes G Class shipping to Limbe [Cameroon] charged £3,600, on 2nd March 2020 – Range Rover Vogue registration KV68PCF valued at £51,500, and shipping costs of £4,250 for shipping to Lilongwe, Malawi via Nacala [Mozambique],
On 26th June 2020 – two Mercedes 5350d L AMG registration KT17OAO and FY65LZE to Walvis Bay, [Namibia]. Value of vehicles £22,350 and £22,550.
On 20th January 2021 – Range Rover SVR registration BD70NKH valued at £92,520 to Lilongwe [Malawi], charged £8,750.
On 21st February 2021 – Porsche 911 Carrera Convertible valued at £104,000, on 10th April 2021 paid £8,600 for shipping the Porsche and a VW Golf to Lilongwe via Durban
Sattar denies any wrongdoing and has vowed to clear his name.
OPERATION SCUTTLEMAN: MALAWI ACCOUNTANT GENERAL FUNDED SATTAR
The witness account against Sattar suggests that Xaviar Limited is the company used by SATTAR when obtaining Government of Malawi contracts.
“It is in this company name that he has obtained GOM contracts, having committed the criminal offences of bribery to secure these contracts, and subsequently received the proceeds into this company’s Bank of Baroda USD account. Between the 17th January 2019 and the 3rd March 2021, the Accountant General of Malawi has paid the total of USD 35,416,597 to this Bank of Baroda account of Xaviar Limited,” reads a submission by Philip BOUNDY, a Financial Investigator of the National Crime Agency.
“No other funds are received and therefore there is nothing to suggest this company has had any legitimate income,” it adds.
Under Xaviar Limited there are also Xaviar Investments Limited and Xotics Limited.
“Xaviar Investments Limited appears to have been created to purchase and manage property in the UK and has been solely funded by payments from Xaviar Limited and loans from SATTAR himself,” the submission reads before adding:
“The monies going into Xaviar Limited have come from the Accountant General of Malawi and are the subject of this criminal investigation which is being conducted with the support of the ACB in Malawi.”
Xaviar Investments Limited has been used for SATTAR’s multiple property investments in the UK and substantial funds have been transferred to Xaviar Investments Limited from Xaviar Limited, with a clear money trail back to the Accountant General of Malawi payments, and these funds have been used for the property purchases here in the UK. The Bank of Baroda account of Xaviar Investments Limited now receives rental income from many of the properties purchased.
“Xaviar Investments have been loaned funds by Xaviar Limited and as of the 2020 return, the balance owed to Xaviar Limited by Xaviar Investments Limited is £3,536,524. As stated above the source of these loaned funds from Xaviar Limited is the Accountant General of Malawi and from the corruptly obtained GOM contracts.”
Another company that is linked to Sattar is Pyrite General Trading LLC which holds a general trading licence in the UAE. Between June 28, 2018, and October 06, 2019, the company received approximately USD $22,600,000 from the Accountant General of Malawi.
“It is believed that these payments are related to corrupt activity in Malawi controlled by SATTAR as he has been recorded discussing the control he has over EBRAHIM and the company,” the submission.