Court unfreezes Bilderberg bank accounts

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William Bilderberg-Accounts unfrozen

The High Court Commercial Division has issued an order to unfreeze accounts for businessman William Bilderberg who had his accounts with US$20 million (approx. K24 billion) frozen on suspicion of money laundering.

The state dropped the money laundering charges and Bilderberg applied to the court to unfreeze his accounts which the Court agreed on Thursday.

Delivering his ruling on the matter High Court Judge (Commercial Division) Ken Manda said Ecobank Malawi where the account was frozen should allow Bilderberg and his company to access the accounts with ‘immediate effect since there is nothing legally preventing them from doing so’.

The Judge said the claimants (Bilderberg Limited and Dr William Bilderberg) requested the court to lift its order suspending operation of an order of Mandatory Injunction which he had granted to them to allow them access funds in their accounts held at Ecobank Malawi following a ‘verbal’ Freezing Order by the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA).

He noted that FIA eventually presented a formal Freezing Order and also got a Preservation Order on the accounts more especially because William Bilderberg was facing money laundering charges. The Preservation Order was for 90 days and expired on 6 February 2024.

Meanwhile, the state dropped all money laundering charges against William Bilderberg, moving him to apply to court to be allowed to have access to his accounts since the charges were the predicate offence on which the Freezing Order was obtained.

FIA applied to the court for a civil forfeiture on the day the Preservation order was expiring, 6 February 2024 and was granted the following day on 7 February 2024 and therefore argued that, in essence, the Preservation Order was extended because of the Civil forfeiture proceedings.

However, Justice Manda said in his ruling that the Preservation Order expired by effluxion of time (90 days) and said the civil forfeiture proceedings could not be adopted as a ‘soft option’ in place  of criminal proceedings, especially where the criminal charges have been dropped and thus there are no allegations of offenses being committed under the Financial Crimes Act.

“In conclusion, the Preservation Order having expired by effluxion of time, there is no legal basis for the defendant to keep denying the claimants access to their accounts. In fact, I must state that there was no point for these proceedings. However, since the matter came before me and there was a hearing, I must make a pronouncement. My pronouncement is that the claimants be given access to their accounts with immediate effect as there is nothing legally preventing them from doing so. The defendant is thus ordered to unfreeze the accounts,” said Justice Manda.

Background to the Case

William Bilderberg was arrested by the Fiscal Police in October 2023. Prior to his arrest, money amounting to close to USD20,000,000.00 (twenty million USA Dollars) was transferred into his bank account held at Ecobank, Blantyre, from Australia.

Upon receipt of the money, Ecobank informed the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), who instructed the bank to freeze the account.

Bilderberg, through the High Court (Commercial Division) Blantyre, applied for a mandatory injunction, ordering the bank to release the money to him. The Court granted the order, whereafter he made some transfers and transactions.

Immediately after that, FIA obtained a Preservation Order from the Financial Crimes Court of the High Court, freezing all accounts for Bilderberg and all persons into whose accounts he transferred money to.

After this, the State arrested him on money laundering charges and allegations of obtaining Malawian Passport through dubious means.

The Commercial Court then suspended the mandatory injunction until the criminal matter in the Magistrate court would have ended.

Several bail applications were made in the Chief Resident Magistrate Court in Blantyre, which the court denied to grant him bail. The State, led by the Chief State Advocate, acting on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, did not oppose bail, but the court refused to grant bail.

The case was then transferred to the Principal Resident Magistrate Court. When it went to this Court, the State withdrew all charges of money laundering against Bilderberg, leaving only the passport case.

Due to the change in circumstances, Bilderberg then made a fresh application for bail, which was granted on 25th January, 2024, with conditions that he had to pay K5,000,000.00 bail bond, sureties with non-cash of K1,000,000.00, reporting every week to Police, among others.

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