The High Court in Lilongwe will on November 4 resume hearing a case in which 14 people, among them government accountants and a private sector individual, are accused of allegedly conspiring to steal K201 million from government in 2011.
When the court reconvened on Wednesday, High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire adjourned the case following preliminary objections from defence lawyers that the State, represented by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director general Reyneck Matemba, did not give them sufficient time to study the evidence before their clients could take plea.
There are 14 accused persons in the case who the ACB wants to prove were involved in the theft and money laundering of K201 million from the then Ministry of Disability Affairs through the Accountant General’s office.
Cornelius Kaphantengo, who was director of Nova Technology and General Dealers, has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, theft and money laundering while his wife, Yvonne, is co-accused on the same counts
According to the charge sheet, the 14 allegedly shared among themselves K201 million between November 2010 and June 2011 and they are jointly charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and money laundering.
Other co-accused persons are Chikondi Chimutu, whose charge of theft involves K18.3 million of the K201 million, Emmanuel Yesaya whose charge of theft involves K27.4 million, Deusdedit Tenthani who allegedly got a share of K16.2 million, Tendai Nayeja (K27.1 million), Audney Kamitengeni (K9.9 million), Conrad Nambala (K38.4 million), Justina Nyirenda charged with abuse of public office as she was an accounts assistant in the Accountant General’s office and Squire Chakwana charged with theft of K10.7 million.
Others are Jimmy Mbuliro whose theft charge is K3 million, Wides Machika Mbuliro (K0.5 million), Tapiwa Ng’oma (K9.1 million) and Khumbo Banda (K2.7 million).
But before the accused persons could take plea, one of the defence lawyers, Innocent Kubwalo, told the court that the State had only sent them disclosures at 4pm on Tuesday, which did not give them ample time to go through the evidence.
The defence also raised objections pertaining to the consolidated charge sheet signed by the court, which they said was only submitted to them on the morning of trial.
However, the judge overruled the second objection on the charge sheet.
In an interview after adjournment, Matemba confirmed that the case has been adjourned to November 4 for all the accused persons to take plea.
During an earlier hearing, the court learnt that subsequent revelations of the plunder of public resources in 2013 dubbed Cashgate was an upgrade of the theft of public money by the suspects from 2011.
In 2013, the shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Former president Joyce Banda ordered an audit which British forensic auditor, Baker Tilly, undertook between April and September 2013 which established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May this year, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014.