Phiri, who owns Khato Civils Limited, a South African-based design and construction company, is being accused of money laundering, with authorities in Botswana preventing him from accessing the money.
After Phiri arrived in the country, he allegedly deposited the money in to his bank account without declaring it at the border, according to Malawi 24.
Botswana’s Court of Appeal has since found Phiri guilty of not declaring the money to the South African Revenue Services as well as the South African Reserve Bank prior to moving it to Botswana.
Justice Isaac Lesetedi reprimanded the South African-based Malawian billionaire, saying his conduct was questionable.
“That unexplained conduct would create a reasonable suspicion in the mind of any investigator of the money being proceeds of serious crime, especially coupled with non-declaration of the export of the money from its country of origin,” Justice Lesetedi said.
Court documents reveal that Phiri declared $300,000 at the South African-Botswana border on July 8, 2015, only for him to deposit $500,000 in to his personal account at Stanbic Bank the next day.
On July 26th, the billionaire reportedly deposited $800,000 and 120,000 rands in to his personal account.
“An above board transaction would have involved a direct transfer of funds through modern electronic means without the managing director [Phiri] putting himself in the risk of carrying such lumps of cash not only once but several times between borders, at one instance using a faraway and remote border post,” Justice Lesetedi added.
A team of investigators from Botswana is scheduled to travel to South Africa to meet with the country’s reserve bank and several commercial banks as a part of the ongoing investigation.
The team is also looking in to the alleged involvement of Stanbic Bank Botswana in the money laundering scheme. Authorities are accusing the financial institution of being used as an instrument to commit financial crimes.
In December, the government of Malawi commended Phiri for constructing a multimillion police station in Kamwendo, Central Malawi, with the country’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Home Security Grace Obama Chiumia, saying the businessman’s contribution to society is priceless.
Besides having fully financed the state-of-the-art police unit, Phiri also donated a vehicle and five motorbikes to help police officers move with speed when responding to emergencies.
Locals in the area have praised Phiri as a beacon of hope for many people, adding that his projects improve livelihoods in diverse ways.