The High Court in Lilongwe has dismissed Vincent Murekezi’s appeal against his conviction for corruption and sentenced him to four years imprisonment effective February last year.
Last year, Murekezi was handed a five-year jail term after being found guilty of corruptly paying a customs clearing agent K200 000 to facilitate evasion of import duty amounting to K2.2 million for a consignment of beer imported from Holland through Mozambique.
But Murekezi appealed against both the conviction and the sentence.
In his application to the High Court, Murekezi, among other reasons, argued that the lower court erred in its determination that the money advanced to the clearing agent (Komani Nyasulu-co-accused) was a bribe meant to evade duty, essentially suggesting a conspiracy between the two, when the same was paid on the understanding that it was for the clearing process of the imported goods.
In his ruling, Justice Chifundo Kachale dismissed Murekezi’s reasoning as totally untrue because, as a person who has been in the business for some time, he should have known better the value of his import and how much he was expected to pay.
“On the totality of the evidence this court on appeal finds the suggestion that the K200 000 was a legitimate payment to be untrue; if the duty assessed on one container alone was K550 000, how could the appellant [who confirmed to have done similar importations before] expect that a combined payment of K200 000 plus K500 000 plus K156 000 [K856 000] could settle entire duty payable on the two containers?” reads the ruling in part.
Kachale further said the cumulative impression emerging from the case substantiates the conclusion that Murekezi was aware that the clearing agent was engaged in some irregular practices in order to clear his goods. The ruling further observes that the lower court made no error in convicting Murekezi on counts of corruption.
“Indeed, it is quite poignant to observe here that even independent of the sums involved, the perniciousness of corruption in undermining the lawful public governance mechanisms cannot be overstated. Apart from lost public revenues arising from the calculated evasion of duty, there is even the higher reputational costs associated with such illicit dealings. Malawi’s perception in the global market may be undermined or enhanced depending on the prevalence or absence of corruption in such critical institutions as the MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority].
“In closing, this court dismisses the appeal of Vincent Murekezi against his conviction for corruption by a private body contrary to Section 26 of the Corrupt Practices Act. The same is hereby affirmed as being entirely sound and justifiable on the law and the facts established in his trial before the lower court,” adds the ruling dated March 2 2018.
However, Murekezi got some relief as Kachale slashed his five-year sentence to four effective February 2 2017 because it was based on wrongful consideration pertaining to his abscondment of bail. n