Businessperson Shafee Ahmed Chunara—arrested on Monday in connection with the cement importation saga—secured bail yesterday and walked to freedom pending hearing of his case from August 26 this year.
Free of handcuffs, Chunara arrived at the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court in the morning where he was formally charged with money laundering and fraud.
The court granted him bail on a K10 million cash bond and two sureties bonded at K50 million each.
Senior resident magistrate Florence Msekandiana also ordered the 36-year-old entrepreneur to surrender his travel documents to the court and that he should be reporting to Police Headquarters fortnightly on Tuesdays.
The bail was also conditioned on Chunara not trying to interfere with witnesses and provided that he cooperates whenever police summon him for further investigations.
State prosecutor Senior Superintendent Moja Phiri told the court that he would not object to the bail request so long as the accused is given conditions similar to those of former president Peter Mutharika’s security aide Norman Chisale who was charged with similar offences linked to alleged abuse of duty-free status of a sitting president.
Chunara’s first count is fraud in which he is accused of importing 800 000 bags of cement using deceitful or fraudulent means without paying duty worth K5 billion.
His second offence is money laundering contrary to Section 331A (a) of the Penal Code.
In the second count, Chunara is accused of engaging himself directly or indirectly in the importation of 800 000 bags of cement without paying duty.
Defence lawyers have applied to the court that hearing of the case should be consolidated with that of Chisale since the two have been charged with same offences. The court has since set August 26 as the date when full trial of the case will start.
Chisale was released on Friday last week on bail, but he was letter re-arrested for an offence of attempted murder while Chunara—who looked composed and attentive in court as Msekandiana was reading out the charges yesterday—was picked up on Monday morning and spent two nights in police cell in Lilongwe.
Meanwhile, Powell Nkhutabasa, the lawyer representing Chunara, said yesterday he is ready to defend his client when full hearing begins.
He said: “The State came to inform the accused person on the reason why he was detained. We made an application for his release and he was released…the State says they are still investigating, when they are ready the trial will commence.”