The High Court in Blantyre has thrown away an application by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to set aside a judicial review on the decision to arrest Yeremiah Chihana for alleged tax evasion.
MRA, in conjunction with the Malawi Police Service (MPS), arrested Chihana last June on suspicion that he, through his companies, last year evaded tax amounting to about K1.3 billion (about $1.7million).
Among several charges were that Chihana imported two vehicles without paying customs duty.
But Chihana denied the charges, arguing his arrest was politically motivated and applied for a judicial review.
The tax bull then went to court and asked presiding judge John Chirwa to vacate the order of stay and leave for judicial review.
Among the grounds, MRA said it had acted reasonably and within its mandate when obtaining the warrant of arrest and search warrant. The authority also said there was a misrepresentation or suppression of material facts on the part of Chihana, adding that Chihana had no arguable case fit for judicial review.
However, in his ruling, judge Chirwa rebuffed MRA, saying the court was “not inclined to vacate or set aside the order for leave for judicial review and the stay order ancillary thereto as prayed for by the respondent [MRA].”
“…Consequently the application stands dismissed. The costs are in the discretion of the court and normally follow the event. This court, having dismissed the respondent’s application in its entirety, therefore, proceeds to exercise its discretion on costs by awarding the same to the applicant,” reads Chirwa’s ruling dated February 11 2016.
In his earlier submissions, Chihana’s lawyer Lusungu Gondwe accused MRA of breaching the terms of the search warrant and warrant of arrest.
He also accused the tax body of court shopping by obtaining a search warrant at a Resident Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre and a warrant of arrest at a Resident Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe when the case was the same. He argued that MRA did so to suppress some material facts.
Earlier last year, the tax collecting body also seized computers and files in a six-hour raid of Chihana’s YMW Property Investments Company offices in Lilongwe as part of the tax evasion probe.
Besides YMW Property Investments Company, the businessperson also owns Vikawu Trust, Steers Auctioneers and Estate Agency, New Chikale Beach, YMW International Transport/Bus Services Limited, Limex Limited and Prudential Consultants and Dutch Contractors.
Chihana, also an opposition politician with the New Rainbow Coalition, came in the limelight when he valued the estate of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika to be worth K61 billion from just K150 million when he took office eight years earlier.
However, the Mutharika family disputed the assessment as an exaggeration.