The High Court in Zomba has set aside the arrest and detention of Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Kezzie Msukwa in relation to his alleged land deals on grounds that the ACB violated his rights.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Msukwa on Friday at Partners in Hope Hospital in Lilongwe where he was being treated for an illness. His arrest came after ACB officials had waited for him in the morning to hand himself in following an arrest they warrant issued on him on Wednesday.
When contacted on Saturday, ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala declined to comment on the development, saying she “did not have an official position on the matter”.
The minister’s arrest followed that of businessperson Zuneth Sattar’s partner Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, also known as Ashok Nair, on Thursday also in relation to the alleged corrupt acts in the land sale deals.
Court documents show that Msukwa, through his lawyer Lugano Mwabutwa on Friday applied to the High Court in Zomba for permission for judicial review and interim relief of an order for stay against his arrest.
“Notwithstanding the communication on the illness and [his] subsequent admission, the defendant (ACB) purportedly continued to effect the arrest…without reading his rights as he is bedridden.
“The purported arrest clearly amounts to subjection of the claimant [Msukwa] to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Section 19 (2) of the Constitution,” the application reads in part.
In her ruling issued on Saturday, presiding Judge Zione Ntaba backed Msukwa’s application, describing the ACB’s conduct as “to a degree unconscionable and unreasonable and more so just to cause embarrassment to the claimant”.
She added: “The court orders that the purported arrest, including further detention in the hospital, is stayed until the determination of the leave of application.”
Sattar and Nair are alleged to have been giving bribes to politically exposed persons with the aim of influencing public officers to corruptly award contracts to companies belonging to Sattar.
Meanwhile, Msukwa’s lawyer has said the minister was not taken to any police cell after the arrest warrant was effected and he was still at Partners In Hope.
Said Mwabutwa on Saturday: “He has high blood pressure. While at the hospital, he was arrested which we thought was unlawful. We are happy with the court ruling.”
Particulars of the offence show that Nair, in or around August 2021, corruptly gave Msukwa K4 million to pay duty to the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) for a Mercedes Benz C-Class which Sattar bought for the minister, who is also Chitipa East legislator (Malawi Congress Party).
Msukwa is also suspected to have committed three counts of corrupt use of official power in relation to allocation of plots to Sattar, according to the particulars of the warrant.
Reads the ACB statement: “During such investigations, the bureau also established that Zuneth Sattar, through his agent Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, aka Ashok Nair, engaged in some corrupt practices in some land-related matters in Area 46, Lilongwe District and Chipoka in Salima District.
“The investigations have so far established that in relation to the mentioned land matters, Hon Kezzie Msukwa on four occasions corruptly used his official powers contrary to Section 25 (1) as read together with Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act.
“The investigations further established that Mr Sattar’s agent Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, aka Ashok Nair, aided in procuring corrupt use of official powers contrary to Section 35 as read together with Section 25 (2) and Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act.”
After his arrested on Thursday morning, Nair was taken to the bureau’s headquarters in Mulanje House at City Centre in Lilongwe for a caution statement.
Sattar, who is currently based in the United Kingdom, is also facing an investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency on allegations of corruption in his dealings with the Government of Malawi.
Two weeks ago, the ACB restricted the Ministry of Lands from dealing with some properties connected to Sattar.