The High Court of Malawi yesterday deferred its judgement on whether business mogul Thomson Mpinganjira has a case to answer in the case where he is accused of attempting to bribe judges.
In a written response yesterday, High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Gladys Gondwe said the court failed to convene because Mpinganjira was unable to appear before it.
She said parties to the case will meet on March 22 to discuss the way forward regarding Mpinganjira’s ability to appear before the court for the ruling.
Gondwe said: “So far, the court has directed that it will convene virtually again on March 22 2021 in order for the suspects’ lawyers to give an update on his [Mpinganjira] ability to appear.”
The registrar did not disclose why Mpinganjira failed to appear before court while Mpinganjira’s lead lawyer Patrice Nkhono could not be reached on his mobile phone.
Mpinganjira, who was arrested in January last year, is accused of attempting to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court and presided over the presidential election nullification case to rule in favour of former president Peter Mutharika.
The business mogul is answering charges under the Corrupt Practices Act such as offering an advantage to a public officer, attempting to induce public officers to exercise functions of their offices corruptly and for purportedly attempting to influence public officers by offering K100 million to High Court judge Mike Tembo, a member of the five-panel judges.
Gondwe said while the court failed to convene, parties to the case yesterday morning met virtually and agreed on the date of the next virtual meeting to check on the status of Mpinganjira appearing before the court.
In December last year, Nkhono asked the court to acquit his client because the State failed to prove the charges against him despite parading six witness who included the five judges and an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigator.
He also said that while Mpinganjira offered a parcel to the five judges, the State failed to show any elements of corruption in the offer.
But in his submission on behalf of the prosecution team, former ACB director ReyneckMatemba argued that from the conversations between Tembo and Mpinganjira, there was evidence of existence of a parcel whose contents were
discussed at a later stage.
He also read transcripts of the said conversations in court, further countering assertions that Mpinganjira did not have a fair trial.
In addition, Matemba said that in offering the parcel, Mpinganjira knew what he was doing in running his “project” which he had told two of the judges—Tembo and Healey Potani.
While asking the court to make its determination on whether Mpinganjira has a case to answer or not based on the evidence provided before the court, he said the fact that the judges reported the matter late did not jeorpadise investigations.
In the course of the case, on October 22 2020, Mpinganjira applied for a plea bargain with the State to save time and resources but it was later withdrawn as Nkhono said the evidence which ACB disclosed did not speak to the charges levelled against his client.
Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition) defines plea bargaining as the process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval