Former president Bakili Muluzi is not off the hook. High Court judge Maclean Kamwambe has thrown out an application to discharge the K1.7 billion (about $2.5million) corruption case against Muluzi and his former aide Violet Whisky.
In a ruling made available at the court’s Blantyre District Registry on Wednesday, the judge said despite the court not being fully convinced that the State was willing to prosecute the case, he was hesitant to set free Muluzi and Whisky.
“…I am reluctant to rush into granting the prayer for discharge,” reads part of Kamwambe’s ruling dated May 17 2016.
This followed a May 5 2016 application by Muluzi’s lawyers for the discharge of the accused persons under Sections 247 and 11 (b) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and the Courts Act respectively after the State failed to proceed prosecuting the case.
The disruption in the prosecution of the matter resulted from a recusal by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director general Reyneck Matemba and the expiry of the contract of hired private practice lawyer Clement Mwala who has been identified as lead prosecutor on the judgement.
Matemba and Mwala formed a three-member prosecution team alongside Imran Saidi from ACB who was not present on the day Matemba recused himself.
Kamwambe’s ruling means prosecution of the matter is likely to take a few more months, somewhat contradicting his earlier assertions made in January that he would want the case concluded by this month.
The judge had indicated his desire to have the case, which dates back to 2006, concluded by April 22, 2016 with any extensions restricted to the first week of May.
When the two parties met last week in Kamwambe’s chambers, ACB objected to the application to have the case discharged.
Instead, the graft-busting body, through its chief prosecutions officer Chrispin Khunga asked the court to give the State four weeks to organise its prosecution team.
In the May 17 judgement, Kamwambe said the court was observing the conduct of the State having indicated it was willing to proceed with the matter after re-organising itself.
He said: “I felt the period [four weeks] was too long for the purpose, but I give the State the benefit of the doubt to prepare itself so that the case commences on the 13th June 2016 to 17th June 2016 then from 1st August to 12th August 2016.”
Further, the judge said the court was not amused with the manner the State was handling the case.
Wondered Kamwambe: “That messrs Matemba and Mwala are out of the case picture, Imran Saidi was supposed to be addressing the court to show that he is actively engaged in the case but for two successive occasions he [Saidi] did not appear.
“Can the court consider him to be counsel seriously engaged on the case or that when needed?”he is just a helper as and
The judge also observed that the State’s recent actions did not demonstrate seriousness and readiness to prosecute the case.
But reacting to the ruling, one of the defence lawyers, Jai Banda, said they respected the decision and will wait for continuation of the proceedings.
He said: “Unfortunately, this is a criminal matter so we cannot appeal at this stage against the court’s decision. So, we will just respect the decision that has been made.”
Since hearing started, the case has been dragging due to numerous adjournments.
Currently, over K100 million has been deducted from the purported K1.7 billion which Muluzi and Whisky are accused of having fraudulently acquired between 1999 and 2005.
Muluzi, who ruled the country between 1994 and 2004 and during his tenure established the ACB, is answering 15 corruption-related cases while Whisky, his then personal assistant, has three cases. n