Diplomats expelled from SA over alcohol

Malawi government said Saturday that it had received news of its diplomats’ alleged misconduct in South Africa with regret and that it would punish those involved when they returned home.

South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations said in a statement that the action followed an investigation that found the diplomats had been buying duty-free alcohol with cash and then reselling it to retailers.

“What they are saying is that they are being accused of abusing the tax privileges that they had,” Kazako said. “You know, according to the Vienna Convention of 1961, diplomats have certain privileges, and one of the privileges is that of not paying tax in the hosting country on certain items and certain services. Alcohol is one of those items, so there was abuse, according to South African government.”

The South African Revenue Service said the scandal, which also involved diplomats from other countries including Rwanda, Burundi and Lesotho, had led to the estimated loss of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes every month. It has not yet been determined how long the illegal enterprise was operating.

John Chikago, Malawi’s former high commissioner to South Africa, said the matter was strange and surprising.

“We buy with the diplomatic card, and you can’t just buy any amount, unless you have a party at your house or there is national day [celebration] for your country,” he said. “But if it is normal consumption, you should buy only one bottle or two bottles. But they were buying cartons. How? So, it appears there was a syndicate.”

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