Mapeto DWS directors face double tragedy in MK32 Billion tax evasion case

Directors of Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons (DWS) Limited have suffered double blow following the decision by both the High Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal to reject their pleas.

On Thursday, High Court Judge Joseph Chigona dismissed an application and all preliminary objections raised by Mapeto DWS executives and two Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) customs officers in the K16.5 billion tax evasion case.

The application requested the court to refer the matter to Chief Justice Rizine Mzikamanda for certification as a Constitutional issue.

DWS executives argued that they were being charged under the Financial Crimes Act of 2017, which they believed did not apply to their case since the alleged offense occurred in 2012 before the Act’s introduction.

Meanwhile, the executives and MRA customs officers who were accused in the matter raised objections to the amendment of the charge sheet.

In his ruling, High Court Judge Joseph Chigona found that the application for certification and all objections lacked merit and were dismissed in their entirety.

Prior to this, on Wednesday, Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Supreme Court ruled against Latif and Mapeto DWS, who sought the release of their impounded goods, which had severely affected their business, resulting in its effective shutdown.

The request for release of impounded goods was denied by Justice Chikopa, who pointed out that the application should have been brought as an appeal or in the context of one, as it was an appellate court.

Accused Mapeto DWS Directors at the court

The tax evasion case against Mapeto DWS Limited started on May 23, 2021, when MRA apprehended five senior executives of the company for alleged tax evasion amounting to K10.8 billion, which later increased to K16.5 billion with penalties and interest. Subsequently, the figure was doubled to K32 billion.

The accused individuals, including Mapeto DWS Director Faizal Giffar Latif, Managing Director Muhammed Gaffar, Financial Controller Abdul Rashid Bakali, Procurement Manager Yaseen Muhammed, and General Manager Martin Mpata, all pleaded not guilty to the 15 counts related to customs offenses, smuggling, false documents, evasion of Value Added Tax (VAT), non-remittance of Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and money laundering.

One of the accused, Mapeto DWS’s Assistant Accountant Devchad Purohit, is currently at large.

Additionally, two MRA officers, George Mwaluka and Tsepiso Kaunda, who were implicated in the case, have also pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting smuggling and conspiracy to commit customs offenses.

Faizal Latif, known for his political connections, acquired David Whitehead Limited in 2003, facing public protests through the controversial privatization program. He was linked to the former ruling party, DPP, and allegedly supported them financially during political campaigns.

Mapeto DWS is suspected of importing containers of brand-new tires but declaring them to the tax authorities as used ones. In early 2021, MRA seized Mapeto’s goods on suspicion of smuggling.

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