The High Court has dismissed an application to reverse the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) restriction notice to unfreeze former president Peter Mutharika’s Standard Bank accounts.
Mutharika’s lawyers made the application to the court on November 25 2020, begging for the court’s mercy to have Mutharika’s Standard Bank account unfrozen.
On August 6 2020 the ACB obtained a restriction notice against Mutharika’s accounts and that of his wife Gertrude in relation to allegations that his taxpayer identification number (TPIN) was used to import volumes of cement worth about K5 billion.
Some former senior officials in the Mutharika administration were arrested and are currently answering charges in relation to the cement saga. They include Mutharika’s former security aide Norman Chisale, director of State residenceS Peter Mukhito and MRA deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi.
In his application, Mutharika’s lawyer Samuel Tembenu (SC) argued that the ACB restriction notice had outlived its validity, citing Section 23 of Corrupt Practices Act which states that such a notice shall last for three months unless it is renewed. The notice, obtained on August 6, was expected to expire on November 5.
However, court records show that ACB renewed the restriction notice on December 7 2020.
Tembenu also submitted that they have tried to seek consent from the bureau to allow their client to withdraw some money from the accounts in question, but the graft-busting body has not responded to the request.
The court records show that Mutharika, in October, had asked for withdrawal of K30 million to pay a contractor he owes as well as other workers among other necessities. Failure to allow withdrawals, according to his lawyer, has adversely affected the former president’s livelihood.
In their counter submission in court, the ACB argued that the restriction notice should not be reversed because the frozen accounts would be useful for both investigations and trial process.
While the applicants had questioned the manner in which the renewal of the notice was done, Justice Mbvundula in his judgement dated January 22 2021 said this controversy was better handled by the court that issued the notice.
Further reads the judgement:
“In the present case, therefore, the applicant was, as of 25th November 2020 (the date when he filed the within application to reverse the RN) at liberty to access his bank accounts herein with the aid of the court, unless he was restrained from doing so (which is not alleged) as there was no restriction notice in existence.
“The applicant’s present application is, therefore, without basis or merit and on that score alone is dismissed with costs.”