Businessperson and Cashgate suspect Osward Lutepo has been certified medically not fit for trial in the various charges he is facing which include theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit murder.
Private practice lawyer Osward Mtupila, who is representing Lutepo, confirmed in an interview yesterday that Dr Jonathan Ngoma of Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe examined the suspect on February 4 2015.
But the doctor is yet to officially issue a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the court as earlier ordered.
Said Mtupila: “The doctor says the physiological problems are emanating from panic and anxiety disorders. This is affecting how his [Lutepo’s] body functions as such he cannot walk, talk and has lost control of bodily functions. The doctor recommended counselling and a psychiatric assessment.”
Lutepo is facing multiple criminal charges at different courts. They include theft and money laundering of K3.1 billion (US$6 .9 million) at the High Court in Zomba, theft and money laundering of K5.7 billion alongside former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara and others at the High Court in Zomba.
He is also facing perjury charges at the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court, conspiracy to commit murder before the High Court in Lilongwe and tax evasion at the same court.
Justice Michael Mtambo, High Court judge in the conspiracy to commit murder charge, had ordered that the case would continue regardless of Lutepo’s fitness to stand trial.
Lutepo has been in and out of hospital since last year, but his hospital admissions have coincided with arrests and possible appearance in court, prompting people to wonder if he is faking his illnesses.
However, a medical report presented to the High Court in Lilongwe two weeks ago as he was scheduled to take plea on a charge of conspiracy to murder former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo indicated that Lutepo was suffering from anxiety disorder and recurrent panic disorder and was recommended for psychiatric consultation by a Mzuzu-based doctor.
On the request of the prosecution for a second opinion by an independent medical examiner, the results have again concluded that Lutepo does not have a physiological condition, but his problem is psychological.
Mtupila said Lutepo has since been discharged from KCH and returned to Mzuzu where the lawyer said he would be seen by another medical specialist at St. John of God Psychiatric Hospital.
However, a lawyer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs familiar with the cases said in his condition, cases for Lutepo would stall until he is mentally and physically fit to appear in court.
Said the lawyer: “He [Lutepo] cannot stand trial for now. The doctors are effectively saying when he is facing court appearance, the anxiety settles in. In the meantime, let us not expect that his cases will come before court soon.”
A forensic audit report into the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill due to abuse of public finance management tools dubbed ‘Cashgate’ established that K24 billion was stolen between April and September 2013. However, Cashgate dates back to 2005 when the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) was launched.
Through various means, Lutepo allegedly got the second highest payments on the list of individuals amounting to K4.4 billion (US$9.8 million).