- Nine years on, no end in sight
- Briton lawyer bill haunts govt
Despite a treason case against former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha stalling in court, the case still haunts government as it has so far cost taxpayers over K600 million, a figure that is likely to increase, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
Nation on Sunday understands that the case, which has lasted over nine years and Chilumpha is reported to be ill, still awaits a decision by the public prosecutor on whether to continue with it.
The former vice-president is accused of plotting to assassinate then president Bingu wa Mutharika.
According to a source with in-depth knowledge of the case, over K600 million has so far been spent on legal fees and other expenses, including hotel bills of a UK-based lawyer, Anthony Berry QC.
Through the witness protection programme, the State was also footing bills of witnesses, including the alleged South Africa-based Chilumpha contracted assassins.
According to sources who corroborated, the State still owes Berry an outstanding balance of 30 000 pounds (about K20 million at the current rate.
Said one of the sources: “Berry charged us 150 000 pounds (about K106 million at the current rate) in legal fees for the initial work which he did, but we have an outstanding balance of 30 000 pounds for a period in 2012 when he came into the country but did not do any work as there was a Judiciary strike.
“During that period, he agreed with the then DPP Rosemary Kanyuka to be charging half the fees for the duration of the strike. He has been asking for his payment but government is yet to honour the demand.”
Both the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Berry were, as we went to press, yet to respond to a Nation on Sunday questionnaire on the matter, but a senior official in the Justice Ministry said it is not surprising that over K600 million has been spent considering the nature of the case and that lawyers hired from abroad do not come cheap.
According to sources, Berry met and corresponded on his demand for payment with then Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga and has subsequently written his successor Janet Banda for payment.
Banda did not answer her phone when called to confirm the development.
“The total sum we have spent on the case, including on meeting costs of witnesses and the other private lawyer hovers around one million pounds. It is a case that is going nowhere, but one wonders if it is a necessary cost,” said one of the sources.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu in an interview advised Nation on Sunday to check the court records for the status of the case and on the legal fees spent so far.
Itimu said the Accountant General was in a better position to know because it is that office that makes such payments.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya, however, said Treasury has no record of the transaction on the case as such payments are made directly by Justice Ministry.
Ted Roka, a managing attorney at Kalekeni Kaphale lawyers—the law firm which represented Chilumpha in the case—cast doubt on the progress of the case in an interview.
Chilumpha, who has hardly been seen in public due to the reported deteriorating health, was arrested during the administration of the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
In 2013, government said it had spent over K200 million on the case and that it had to cough more.
Former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara told Weekend Nation of December 21 2013 that government was still incurring costs on the case.
Former DPP Bruno Kalemba is also quoted in the same paper as saying the devaluation of the kwacha also affected payments to Berry.
“We are in austerity measures. We pay when we have enough funds. He is being paid for the work that he did already on the case,” he said. n