Trials of cases on the looting of public resources at Capital Hill finally went underway at Lilongwe High Court on Wednesday over three months after the syndicate was busted.
Four suspects—Caroline Savala, Leonard Kalonga, Angella Katengeza and Gordon Hamdan—appeared before High Court Judge Fiona Mwale, but substantial proceedings took place only in one case.
Savala, who is answering charges of money laundering and theft amounting to K87 million, asked for an adjournment because her lawyer, Ralph Kasambara, was in police custody answering similar charges following his arrest on Monday.
Savala, through her stand-in lawyer Wapona Kita, asked the court to adjourn the case for 14 working days.
“Mr Kasambara was supposed to be here today to represent [Savala] but because he is still under police custody, he delegated me. And I hereby request your honour for a 14-day adjournment,” Kita asked the court.
Mwale, who was surprised by the change of counsel without her knowledge, granted the consent.
Next to appear in court were Kalonga and Katengeza who are being accused of theft of public money.
Kalonga is facing eight charges of conniving with different people to defraud government of millions and he is at the centre of the procurement of six buses without the knowledge of the Ministry of Tourism where he was working as chief tourism officer.
Kalonga’s lawyer Joseph Kamkwasi applied for consolidation of the charges, committal to the magistrate court and for him to know when his client will appear in court.
Mwale ruled that it was necessary for the counsel to know when they would appear in court, and that the case was being referred back to the magistrate.
But on the consolidation of the charges, Mwale said the State would have to look at the application and determine the outcome.
However, the court discharged due to lack of evidence in the case against Hamdan who was accused of stealing about K153 million.
Speaking after the court sessions, Gilbert Khonyongwa who was representing Katengeza, said although the start of trial has been marred by irregularities, it was normal and things would improve as cases progress.
Meanwhile, magistrate Patrick Chirwa has committed former Justice minister Raphael Kasambara’s case of money laundering to the High Court, said Kita, his lawyer.
“The case was supposed to come to the magistrate’s court, but the DPP’s [Director of Public Prosecutions]’s office has decided that it should go to the High Court, so when this happens you come for committal proceedings before the magistrate’s court so that the matter be referred to the court,” hesaid.
In the morning, Kasambara’s bail application hearing was postponed to Friday this week, according to Kasambara’s defence team.
Kita said the DPP’s office needed more time as they were only served with the bail application a day before the hearing.
“We have been told that the hearing will be this Friday. The office of DPP says they need more time to look at the application,” said Kita.
Kasambara, who was arrested on Monday, is answering charges of money laundering.