Government is courting witnesses, including Cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo, to testify against former president Joyce Banda in her alleged involvement in the K24 billion plunder of the public purse, Nationon Sunday has learnt.
In an interview on Wednesday this week, Lutepo’s lawyer Oswald Mtupila confirmed meetings between Lutepo on one hand and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the other, regarding Lutepo’s previous claims that he had evidence against the former president.
But Mtupila refused to give details of what was discussed.
“We met and discussed some issues. The ACB also took a caution statement from my client, but I am not in a position to divulge the details,” said Mtupila.
But our sources said Lutepo’s guilty plea in court on conspiracy charges was part of the process to eventually become a State witness to provide evidence against the former president.
A Cashgate suspect who was also approached and eventually met government’s prosecuting agencies corroborated the information, but sources could not indicate the evidence the State expects Lutepo to provide the State.
According to the sources, Lutepo agreed to testify against Banda, but the office of the DPP had been expressing reservations on the move due to concerns about the credibility of Lutepo as a witness.
Before his conviction, Lutepo had on one occasion written the Attorney General to withdraw earlier caution statements on Cashgate, claiming he was forced to implicate others.
Banda’s representatives are yet to speak on the matter, but the former president has always distanced herself from the plunder.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu confirmed in a written response that Lutepo met ACB officials on entering a guilty plea, but fell short of providing details and referred the matter back to the graft-fighting body.
“As to the evidence that Mr. Lutepo provided kindly consult ACB as he went to ACB and dealt with the officers/investigators there to advise them of his wish to enter a guilty plea,” said Itimu.
ACB senior public relations officer Egritta Ndala could neither confirm nor deny the matter, describing the questions raised by Nation on Sunday in a questionnaire as bordering on its operations.
“The Anti-Corruption Bureau is continuing with its investigations into the plunder of public resources. It can, however, not be drawn to comment on operational issues as doing so would jeorpadise its operations,” said Ndala.
Nation on Sunday had asked the DPP and ACB to clarify specifically on whether Lutepo had submitted evidence and further sought an update on the assets the State has reclaimed from Lutepo.
Nation on Sunday previously reported on attempts by the ACB and DPP on plea bargain deals with the State seeking to strike agreements with some suspects to testify against others.
Previously, government, through Information, Tourism and Culture Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa, claimed it had CCTV footage depicting the former president meeting Cashgate convict Lutepo—but the existence of the footage has been quashed as a fabrication by the former president.
ACB—where Nankhumwa claimed to have forwarded the footage—has maintained that they have not received the purported footage. n