Proceedings in the ongoing ‘K1.7 billion (about $2.5million) corruption case involving former president Bakili Muluzi were disrupted Monday morning after the second accused, Violet Whiskey, was taken ill while in the dock.
Whiskey, a former personal assistant to Muluzi, is being accused alongside the former president of corruptly acquiring about K1.7 billion when Muluzi was in power.
She was rushed to Blantyre Adventist Hospital (BAH) for medical attention, forcing presiding High Court judge Maclean Kamwambe to adjourn the matter to this morning pending an assessment of her condition.
When the case resumed at 9.15am on Monday, the third day of trial, Whiskey was not yet in court and it was reported that she was held up because she was feeling unwell.
The development pushed defence lawyers to request the court to wait for her arrival.
But before the defence completed making the communication to the judge, Whiskey walked into the courtroom.
However, as lead defence lawyer Tamando Chokotho was cross-examining Victor Banda, the first prosecution witness, Whiskey began groaning loudly and virtually collapsed in the dock before Muluzi’s security personnel and other people came to her rescue.
The judge then adjourned the proceedings “until the matter is sorted out”.
Outside the courtroom, Muluzi’s doctor only identified as Gonani, with the help of others, applied first aid to Whiskey for some minutes before she was rushed to BAH in a greyish Toyota Prado registration BM 9701.
When proceedings resumed 25 minutes later, lead State counsel Reyneck Matemba, who is also Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director general, told the court they had agreed with Whiskey’s lawyer to apply for adjournment of the matter to await feedback from medical doctors regarding the second accused’s condition. He said they would report back to the court today.
While confirming the two parties’ suggestion, Chokotho also sought the court’s discretion to allow Muluzi not to personally attend court today.
But in his ruling, Kamwambe said the court or anybody could not foresee the nature of the medical condition of the second accused as such being an open court, Muluzi should be available to follow the proceedings.
In an interview later, Matemba said regardless of the medical results, the case would still continue either in Whiskey’s
absence or in her presence.
Last evening, Matemba said Whiskey had been discharged from hospital.
Earlier, Matemba said there were several options the State could follow as a way of ensuring that the matter proceeds, but the decision would be made today.
Said Matemba: “But as a State, I am sure even the defence itself, we are all keen that this matter proceeds.”
One of the options, he said, was to strike off the counts/charges against Whiskey and then proceed with only those relating to Muluzi.
The second accused person is answering three counts, including two pertaining to theft by a person employed in the public service. The third charge is giving a false report or information to the ACB.
Since trial began last week Thursday, over K100 million (about $145 483) has been deducted from the K1.7 billion.
This happened after Banda agreed that the money should not be part of the said cumulative figure as there was no indication it was acquired corruptly.
The K100 million deductions, among others, include money from Muluzi’s Ntaja Trading and Distributors and loans from Loita Investment Bank as well as Stanbic Bank (now Standard Bank) which he got for the construction of Keza Office Park.
Muluzi’s case dates back to 2006.
Muluzi served as the country’s second president from 1994 to 2004.