A jet sold by Joyce Banda, the Malawian president – attracting praise from key donors including Britain – is believed to have been bought by a controversial African arms group and she is now using it for free, it can be disclosed.
The Dassault Falcon 900EX was bought last year by Bohnox Enterprises, a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands, and sent to South Africa, where it is loaned to VIPs by the jet company Fortune Air.
Both companies are linked to Paramount Group, Africa’s largest private defence and aerospace firm, which has already signed deals with the Malawian government for agriculture, fuel and military contracts through a network of investment firms.
Reports in Malawi suggest that since the plane was sold, Mrs Banda has continued to use it regularly to travel to events around the continent. The trips formed part of a total of 20 private plane flights she took in just three months at the end of last year, it was said.
Asked who paid for the use of the jets, her spokesman said it was “well-wishers” who “have told us not to disclose their identities”.
Mrs Banda is currently dealing with a major scandal over corrupt procurement deals made by government departments, leading foreign donors including Britain to suspend direct aid that had accounted for 40 per cent of the impoverished country’s budget.
Britain, which in 2012 spent £117 million supporting Malawi, has said it is seeking “greater clarity” from Mrs Banda about the latest “concerning” revelations. “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.