It was a bad day for business mogul Thom Mpinganjira yesterday as he suffered a double blow.
First, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed his application to terminate criminal proceedings in his alleged judge bribery case in the High Court of Malawi. Through his lawyers, Mpinganjira had challenged High Court Judge Dorothy DeGabrielle’s refusal to recuse herself from the case over alleged impropriety.
When the High Court reconvened later in the afternoon to hear his defence, Mpinganjira suffered a second blow after his final witness failed to show up in court. This was the second of his three witnesses to stay away.
In a sworn statement filed by his lawyer Patrice Nkhono in the Supreme Court, Mpinganjira alleged that between March 8 and May 5 2021, DeGabrielle and High Court Judge president Sylvester Kalembera, through unnamed individuals, offered to secure his acquittal or a suspended sentence in the case.
He claimed that the offer was in exchange with K200 million. But DeGabrielle dismissed the allegations, saying there was no basis.
Delivering his ruling in the absence of Mpinganjira yesterday morning, Justice of Appeal Rezine Mzikamanda said there were no valid grounds to grant a stay on the proceedings in the lower court where the businessperson was found with a case to answer.
He said: “I have looked at all documents presented to me and I have listened attentively to the submissions. I have not been able to see any such good reason to grant a stay.”
Back in the High Court, Nkhono closed the defence’s case after the final witness failed to turn up.
DeGabrielle has since directed both the State and defence to file their final submissions by June 30 2021. She said oral submissions would be made at a date to be advised.
Mpinganjira was found with a case to answer on April 15 this year. He was arrested in January 2020 and is accused of attempting to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court, who presided over the presidential election nullification case.