The Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court on Thursday ordered the restart of the 2016 case involving Malawi deputy ambassador to Ethiopia Doreen Kapanga and former first secretary for administration and finance Fletcher Chowe.
The two, arrested in May 2016 and granted bail at K1 million each, are suspected to have siphoned K293 million ($409 790) of public money which they deposited in personal accounts.
One of the defence lawyers, Khumbo Soko, submitted to the court that State witnesses need to be recalled to testify before the new chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa for the suspects to be accorded a fair trial.
When the matter was last heard in 2016, one witness had testified and a second one was about to conclude testifying.
Said Soko: “Let’s not engage in linguistic gymnastics, the test is only subject to one thing; the court should grant the request of the accused person unless that particular test cannot be accommodated through reason of delay or expense which in the circumstance of the case the court considers to be unreasonable.”
But Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni argued that the record before the court is clear; hence, the court should exercise discretion on proceeding with the trial rather than restarting.
He said: “ The matter should proceed [without] recalling witnesses. Moreover the charges are serious as over half a million dollars is at stake. The burden is on the accused to see the trial come to an end.”
In his ruling, Chirwa said the State did not show that it would be logistically impractical to bring back the witnesses to court.
The magistrate said: “In fact, it is naturally the duty of the succeeding magistrate to ask the accused person, especially the one being represented, that the accused has the right to have the witnesses re-examined.”
The State is expected to parade six witnesses one of whom resides in Ethiopia.
The case has since been adjourned to August 4 or 5 2021 when hearing will begin.
Theft of public resources at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia prompted government to write the Auditor General (AG) to conduct independent audits in all other missions, beginning with those which have not been audited in the recent past.