Four Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons (DWS) executives and two clearing agents have pleaded not guilty to three counts of customs-related offences bordering on evasion of duty.
The six, who were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, appeared before the Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court where they were formally charged.
The Mapeto DWS executives are Faizal Gaffar Latif, Zarina Latif, Mohamed Gaffar and Mohamed Yaseen while the two clearing agents are Mcknight Banda and Chimwemwe Tembo.
The six pleaded not guilty to the three counts Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) levelled against them. The three counts are conspiracy to commit customs offences, interfering with goods under customs control and uttering a false document.
Later, one of the lawyers representing the four Mapeto executives, Fostino Mayere, asked the court to consider releasing his clients on bail following a bail application they filed on Wednesday.
He told the court that his clients had proven to be good citizens who can comply with bail conditions.
Mayere said: “The first and fourth accused persons are also answering charges before the CRM [chief resident magistrate Jean Kayira].
“They were granted bail and they are complying with the bail conditions. We haven’t heard any complaint from MRA against our clients. I pray for them to be considered for bail.”
But in his response, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni objected to granting the accused bail, saying the four Mapeto DWS executives had committed another offence while they were on bail; hence, the court should not grant them bail.
He said: “This particular matter is a demonstration of capacity and capability the accused persons have. They continued committing crime and should not be taken seriously.”
Responding to Kayuni’s objection, Mayere told the court that the charge sheets indicate that the crime was committed between January and April 2021 while his clients were granted bail in the K16.5 billion tax evasion case on May 25 2021.
Blantyre senior resident magistrate Godfrey Balaka reserved his ruling on the bail application to 3.30pm today (Friday).
MRA head of corporate affairs Steve Kapoloma yesterday told The Nation that the suspects are alleged to have connived to defraud government about K252.6 million in tax revenue and that the case is separate from the K16.5 billion tax evasion case which is also in court.
The arrests came a few days after the company’s executives obtained an injunction restraining Kayira from hearing the alleged K16.5 billion tax evasion case pending a High Court judicial review.