Update 12 September 2014: The new administration under President Arthur Peter Mutharika is said to be in dialogue with the Paramount Group on the agreement made for Paramount to supply armed vessels to Malawi. Nyasa Times reported on this story here.
Update 22 January 2014: In “Joyce Banda, an African arms firm and the free use of the jet she sold“, Aislinn Laing of The Telegraph confirms the connection between the Bohnox, which purchased Malawi’s controversial presidential jet, and the arms company, Paramount Group, which has sold Malawi armed patrol vessels for Lake Malawi.
Current president of Malawi Joyce Banda sold the private jet to Bohnox and received acclamation for this move as Banda stated that the money from the sale would be directed to purchasing essential drugs and maize. Bohnox has now lent the jet to Banda and Malawians are asking what strings are attached. Laing reports,
Selling the jet was taken as a good symbol of the government prioritising austerity measures and tackling poverty,” Michael Nevin, the UK High Commissioner to Malawi, told the country’s Nation newspaper.
“We were under the impression that the jet had been sold to the best bidder in an open competition, but media reports suggest it was not a straightforward deal as such.
“It is particularly concerning if there is a nexus between the selling of the jet, the buying of boats and the Paramount Group.”
Duncan Halliday, a spokesman for Fortune Air, initially confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that Bohnox, Fortune Air and Paramount “are all part of the group”.
Asked to confirm that Bohnox was part of Paramount Group, he replied: “That’s correct.”
Mr Halliday later said in a statement that Bohnox was an “independent aircraft-owning company” and Fortune Air “is not part of the Paramount Group”.
Update 28 December 2013: The Malawian Government has released a press statement about the presidential jet. In the press statement, the Malawian Government dismisses The Nation‘s report that the jet the president Joyce Banda is using, supplied by “well wishers”, is the one the government sold earlier this year. However, the statement does not directly address the other assertion made by The Nation that Paramount Group is linked to the privately chartered jet Banda is using; this is the same company that has been connected to the armed boats the government recently purchased to patrol Lake Malawi.
In cases where a well wisher offers to charter a plan for the State President, Government’s responsibility is to provide the standards of the plane befitting the President of the Republic of Malawi to the well wisher. The well wisher is therefore at liberty to charter from qualifying entities. This is the case too when Government charters a plane using its own resources.
Comments made about the statement that has been published online by Malawi Voice suggest that the press release does not really “clear the mist” as Nyirenda Chalo posted on Malawi Voice. In addition, an op-ed piece published online by The Nation serves as a rejoinder to the press statement as the writer asks the government to provide details to “convince us” of claims that the aircraft is not the same one that Banda sold earlier in the year.
Paramount Group, the company that sold Malawi armed patrol vessels for Lake Malawi and is linked to sponsoring the Bell Pottinger the PR company supporting Malawi’s president Joyce Banda, has now also been connected to the private jet that Banda is using. The Nation reports that there is strong evidence that the jet Banda is using is the same one the previous president Bingu Mutharika used.
In 2009, Mutharika purchased a private jet that resulted in the British government reducing budgetary support. After Mutharika died in office in April 2012, Joyce Banda assumed leadership and quickly sold the 15-year old Dassault Falcon 90-EX for USD 15 million to Bohnox Enterprise, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, which is notorious for providing companies with financial secrecy and corporate anonymity. The sale of the jet won Banda international approval among donors, as the government indicated that the money from the transaction would “be used to purchase maize locally to help feed the suffering masses“.
Banda, until recently, had been using commercial airlines for her international travel. Now, Banda is travelling in a private jet and so the Malawian media has been asking “who is paying?“. Steven Nhlane, State House Press Secretary, told The Nation that
This jet is from the President’s well-wishers. The aircraft is not chartered by government. There is no hypocrisy. It is made available to her by her well-wishers. There is no cost to the Malawi tax- payer when she travels on a private aircraft. […]
You do not have to know them. Besides, they have told us not to disclose their identities. That is what friends are meant for, helping each other.
There must have been some underground deals with the buyer of the plane, such as being assured of some favors, material or otherwise, or being allowed to fly in the plane afterwards in return for favorable transactions in the sale.
We now know that the plane was sold to a company called Bohnox Enterprise Limited. Although the company is registered in the Virgin Islands, the owner, a Mr Ivor Ischikowitz, is a resident of South Africa. He also owns Paramount Group, a company which deals in military hardware and is registered in South Africa. This is the company which paid for the UK PR firm (Bell Pottinger) which came to Malawi to clean up the President’s image in the face of Cashgate scandal. In addition, this is the same company that sold us seven gun boats to patrol over Lake Malawi soon after our lake dispute with Tanzania started.
We worried then about how the Paramount Group funded the PR firm and why the State House wanted to hide it all. […]
We also hear that this is the same company which leased Mbalachanda Estate from ADMARC [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] and also owns Engen Oil Company in Malawi. We now must ask ourselves that with such level of presence in Malawi, how many other secret deals is the PP [People’s Party Government making with this company?
In November 2013, we posted that the Government of Malawi has signed a contract to purchase armed patrol vessels for Lake Malawi. President Joyce Banda revealed to Aislinn Laing, Southern Africa Correspondent for the British Daily and Sunday Telegraph that she has commissioned seven inceptor boats from Paramount Group, Africa’s largest private defence and aerospace company, which will be fitted with arms to patrol the lake. This revelation comes at a sensitive time as Malawians and Tanzanians await the decision of the Africa Forum’s mediation team on the dispute of national boundaries across Lake Malawi, or Lake Nyasa as the lake is known in Tanzania.
Tanzania and Malawi are contributing large amounts of money to the budget of the mediation team that is working on the boundary dispute as revealed by the Tanzanian parliament earlier this month.
The Malawian government maintains that the lake falls entirely within the nation’s borders, while Tanzania is contesting this territorial arrangement that is based on a colonial Heligoland Agreement from 1890. Tanzania wants the national boundaries to be withdrawn at a midway point between the two across, which will cut across the lake. The Malawian government has already awarded several companies with rights to explore for hydrocarbons in the lake bed.