Businessperson Oswald Lutepo, the main suspect in the K1.2 billion (US$2 948 403) theft and money laundering case, has turned into a State witness as he is set to testify against 27-year-old Victor Sithole who is accused of being found in possession of large amounts of money.
Sithole was found with, among other amounts, K112 million (US$275 184) cash in his vehicle last year, a development that exposed theft of government resources in what has been dubbed Capital Hill Cashgate.
Kamudoni Nyasulu, a former director of public prosecutions (DPP) now private practice lawyer specifically engaged to prosecute Cashgate cases, confirmed yesterday that Lutepo was one of three witnesses the State would parade to strengthen the case against Sithole.
Lutepo was present at the court in Lilongwe yesterday, donning a full beard and full head of hair and going unnoticed as one of the major players in the theft of billions from government coffers.
However, immediately after Sithole was arrested in September last year, Lutepo applied to the court to order that the local currency of the money found in Sithole’s possession amounting to K112 million be released to him to enable him to fulfill a contract with Agrifeeds, part of which was subcontracted to Sithole.
Ironically, Lutepo himself, a former People’s Party official, is also answering charges of theft and money laundering involving K1.2 billion when his company, International Procurement Company, had reportedly not rendered any services to government.
Yesterday, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court started hearing the case against Sithole who pleaded not guilty to all three counts of possession of property suspected to have been stolen, illegal possession of foreign currency and money laundering.
Sithole was arrested in September last year when he was found with K112 million in two separate vehicles, $ 31 900 and 121 000 South African rand in his house in Area 47 in Lilongwe, but he failed to explain how he came to be in possession of the money.
He is still in custody following his re-arrest after he attempted to procure another passport. His bail application is expected to take place today.
The first State witness in the case against Sithole, head of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the Malawi Police Service (MPS), Moses Makwinja, told the court that about K80 million (US$196 560) of the local currency in K500 banknotes was found in an unregistered Toyota Fortuner parked in the yard of Sithole’s Area 47 residence while K32 million (US$78 624) was found in a Toyota Vitz registration MH 5766.
It was later discovered that the Toyota Fortuner was stolen and a businessperson, Mike Msungama, has since been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
During cross-examination, Sithole’s lawyer, Kalekeni Kaphale, poked holes in Makwinja’s testimony, saying the investigator did not find out who else in Sithole’s home could have owned the money and police did not get any statement from his wife.
Hearing in Sithole’s case was expected to continue at the Reserve Bank of Malawi presmises where the money was being kept as evidence in the trial.