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Malawi Anti-Corruption Body to Release Passport after Muluzi Signs Bond

Malawi's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says former President Bakili Muluzi's passport can be returned after he signs a $13 million bond. The ACB said the bond would ensure that Muluzi returns to face graft charges after his scheduled medical trip to the United Kingdom.

The anti-corruption body seized Muluzi's passport claiming it had information that the former president would not return to face corruption charges.

Muluzi is facing corruption charges after being accused of diverting donor funds into his personal account, charges he denies.

ACB chairman Alex Nampota told VOA that Muluzi's properties would not be confiscated if he returns after his medical trip.

"If he (Muluzi) comes back, then there is no problem. But in the event he doesn't come back, all the properties which are a subject of a seizure warrant which we obtained get vested in the government and get sold to make good the $13 million dollars," said Nampota.

He described as suspicious the former president's challenge of the bond.

"Now, he is resisting in the court to say he doesn't want to execute the bond. And we are wondering, if he is coming back, why the resistance? So, this also gives us the impression that probably there is something amiss about this trip that is making it difficult for him to execute a bond," he said.

Nampota said the ACB is not to blame for the delay in Muluzi's scheduled medical trip.

"We want to give him his passport as soon as possible. All he does is [sign] a bond. We wondered where the urgency of the (Muluzi's medical) trip had gone suddenly," Nampota said.

But supporters of the former president said they are unhappy by what they describe as the ill-treatment meted out to Muluzi.

"We are in an extreme sense very saddened and we feel sorry about it," said Humphrey Mvula, director of research of Muluzi's opposition United Democratic Party (UDF).

He sharply denied Muluzi's refusal to execute the bond was because he had something to hide.

"The area of subsequent legal action of requiring a bond and withdrawing a passport were obtained ex parte [by a judge, without all parties present]. I'm sure if good intentions were demonstrated through the defense and the prosecution sitting down and talking about it, probably the lawyers or anybody else would have looked at it differently," he said.

Mvula said the former president will return to face the graft charges against him.

"He has never wanted to run away and he will not run away. He is not a small person," Mvula said.

He questioned the timing of the ACB's claim of a tip-off that led to Muluzi's passport seizure.

"As a party, we have said that look, if indeed there was an anonymous caller, it should have been treated with a lot of contempt because that anonymous caller should have been so ignorant of what happens when a former president is traveling," he said.

Bakili Muluzi stepped down in 2004 after serving two consecutive terms as Malawi's president, but not until he tried unsuccessfully to change the constitution to allow him to run again.