…left on 23rd June in a Govt prado
…East Bridge Directors, Associates go AWOL
…did they threaten to expose fertiliser deal
The touted Directors of alleged Romanian-based East Bridge Estates Srl which signed the controversial K250 billion fertiliser deal are all out of the country, raising fears they have bolted with unspecified amount of money, nobody can point its source.
Paul Mphwiyo, closely linked to the East Bridge Estates Srl deal, flew from Lilongwe to Blantyre on 22nd June, 2023, slept at Ryalls Hotel before a government Toyota Prado TX drove him away the following day.
Criminal Investigations Department Police Officers briefly detained the hotel official quizzing her on whereabouts of Mphwiyo. They later released her after she told them he was just a customer.
Police on Tuesday confirmed to the local Daily Times newspaper that they were hunting for Paul Mphwiyo, suspected to have been the mastermind behind cashgate scandal and delivery of the 10-year-old case judgment has now been delayed as he has bolted.
The two known names linked to East Gate company- Ted Moya was traced to Nairobi in Kenya on Friday, while Likhwa Mussa who signed as a witness could not be reached within Malawi. Mussa was reported to have landed in Dubai on Tuesday morning as we finalised the story.
A third Director whose name has not been public made public is Ms. Mphwiyo apparently related to Mphwiyo and was used as proxy to the fertliser deal.
The link between Mphwiyo and the East Bridge Estates Srl was hidden in a statement by the company which alleged to have paid in advance the fertiliser and is expected, according to the agreement to arrive in Malawi by 25th of July, 2025.
Both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance could not respond to allegations that some funds or some financial instrument were used to obtain funds by the controversial firm whose address The Investigator Magazine tracked to a filling station in the suburbs of the Romanian Capital Bucharest.
Some huge cash movements, buying of Forex
The Investigator Magazine was informed of cash transactions of up to K100 million in one of the Directors’ accounts at a commercial bank (name withheld for now) in Lilongwe, but could not ascertain the source and the final destination of the funds, raising fears that government could have either paid or its financial instruments raised for cash.
“The gentleman associated with the deal received K100 million and this was removed from the account and then it disappeared, it was well known among his associates that he had hit the jackpot,” said our source.
A second businessman said the amount could have been higher than K100 million as the East Bridge group bought most of the dollars out of the market in Lilongwe.
“The kwacha hit K1800 in Lilongwe due to the demand created by these fertiliser guys. Now they bought off most of the dollars, the rates are going down to around K1650” said our second source.
Mphwiyo and a forex trader from Lilongwe went to Blantyre together to look for more dollars before he was escorted out of Malawi.
We have confirmed among black-market dealers in Lilongwe that the rate has gone down.
Contract on or off, paid or not
The Investigator Magazine has failed to solicit a formal confirmation from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance on the future of the contract with the two Ministries asking us to check with each other.
Further none could definitely say if any funds or finance instruments were used to obtain funds by East Bridge directors.
“None that I know of and I will request you to check with the Ministry of Agriculture officials,” said Dr Macdonal Mafuta Mwale, Secretary to the Treasury when asked on 6th July.
Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale’s mobile could not be reached and texts to Secretaries of Agriculture Dixie Kampani and Modrina Muloza Banda were not responded to.
Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe said the Ministry of Agriculture was better placed to speak on the fertiliser deal.
The Investigator Magazine was informed two weeks ago that the Romanian deal was supposed to be canceled or delayed as recommended by the Cabinet Committee on Agriculture but the Ministry has remained mum on the recent developments.
Gwengwe in earlier interviews said the public funds are protected and Malawians should not be worried. Kawale repeated the same despite The Investigator Magazine’s revelations that Romania does not have the promised 600,000 tons.
The deal which saw government issue a USD250 million sovereign guarantee was said to have had a negative effect on the country’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in October which has a make-or-break meeting for Malawi to return to the ECF programme which President Chakwera’s administration canceled voluntarily after assuming power in 2020.
Since then the government has failed to convince the IMF to resume the programme and corruption scandals and guarantees which are likely to raise debt commitment could see Malawi fail again.
How all connected is Mphwiyo’s escape
The Investigator Magazine has been told by Justice officials that the East Gate Estates Srl submitted documentation that included one director with the surname Mphwiyo. Mphwiyo was supposed to have his 2013 Cashgate case ruling by the end of last month.
He disappeared days before the ruling and his known mobile numbers have either been traced to Monkey Bay or to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Our investigators have strongly suggested that he was within the borders of Malawi and being harboured by a very important person in the country.
He later left Malawi through Mwanza border and he is said to be in Durban, South Africa, according to one of his associates.
Mphwiyo, Mussa, and Moya were seen together in the Capital whilst negotiations for the Romanian fertiliser deal were being negotiated.
A day before disappearing Mphwiyo checked into Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre for one night, according to the sources, and left in the morning around 6 am.
He boarded Malawian Airlines flight number ET20 from Lilongwe on 22nd June, 2023 at 08.10 am.
The Investigator Magazine can confirm that he was in company of one for well known money changers at Lilongwe Game Complex known as Sally.
He left a sandal and a shirt in the hotel room and boarded a Black Toyota Prado TX which had no number plates. Some have sources allege the vehicle belongs to the cabinet office type of vehicle.
“There was a standby letter of credit at Reserve Bank. Some of the funds might have been paid locally and some outside. It is understood, they made demands for safe passage and they were accorded. If Mphwiyo has left Malawi should be days after he disappeared, he was being kept by someone,” a source told The Investigator.
Sally, according to forex traders around the country had been asking for all dollars, rands and pounds on the market pointing to the fact Mphwiyo and the group had huge sums of kwacha which was likely paid as part of the deal.
We have names of people in Government that are said to have been close to the deal and we are verifying their link with the scandalous East Bridge Estates deal which the Ministry of Agriculture is still hoping for a miracle.
“The story is they threatened to spill the beans. Their flight out of Malawi was planned. Government should stop pretending and playing with Malawians and come out in the open,” said our original source in the case.
Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda was expected to make a final decision after he was named as the one who authorised the deal, breaking all procurement deal which is now being covered by fertliser bring brought from Turkey.
Another source suggested money was paid through Capital City branch of the commercial bank in Lilongwe and the bank has yet to respond to our questions sent to its various top officials.
Attorney General holds on to the illegal deal
Chakaka Nyirenda has failed to explain the rationale or powers he gave himself to override procurement rules and is failing to cancel the deal which is already more expensive and is turning into another embarrassing scam for the government, especially with connection to Mphwiyo who is a cashgate suspect.
The AG has been making embarrassing blunders by over-riding different institutions that some agencies are using in-house and external legal opinions as they are scared of legal repercussions after the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) loses power.
“Most of us we are preparing life after 2025. The way things are, it will be a great miracle if we will win. Scandal after scandal. We agreed amongst ourselves to ignore the Attorney General and his bizarre advice in contract matters. Following his advice can get one arrested in future. One wonders why the President is fascinated with this gaffe ladden AG who has no idea about his powers and its limitations,” said one of the CEOs in a key government agency.
The Anti Corruption Bureau is said to be probing the matter.