Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) chief executive officer Collins Magalasi and three co-accused persons were yesterday denied bail in a case involving alleged fraud of over K107 million.
Magalasi, a one-time executive assistant to former president Peter Mutharika, is accused alongside businessperson Dorothy Shonga and Mera public relations officer Patrick Maulidi, accused of fraud.
In court yesterday, Mera procurement officer Bright Mbewe was added as a fourth accused person (officially charged as second accused) to the charge sheet, but did not take plea as chief resident magistrate Violet Chipao, who is supposed to hear the matter, was absent.
All the criminal charges relate to a procurement contract awarded to Vink Enterprises, a company belonging to Shonga, for yet -to-be specified goods and services.
However, senior resident magistrate Florence Msekandiana formally read out the charges for Mbewe following arguments by the State and lawyer representing the accused persons, Ian Malera.
The first count was fraud related to the procurement, the second count was money laundering involving alleged attempts to conceal the proceeds of crime generated from the fraud and the third count was entering procurement contract with an employee contrary to the Public FinanceManagement Act.
The State argued that the suspects, who were arrested on July 29, should continue being held in custody pending completion of investigations as they might interfere with known witnesses.
Malera countered that holding the suspects would be tantamount to punishment before trial, citing a litany of cases in which courts have granted suspects bail in similar circumstances.
But Msekandiana rejected the bail application after reading a number of reasons in which the law allows the State to keep suspects in custody, arguing there is a likelihood the suspects knew witnesses in the case.
As the accused persons walked in and out of court, they concealed their faces from photographers with headgear, masks and sunglasses.
Meanwhile, the same court yesterday failed to hear a case involving former acting director of National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) Kenam Kalilani, who is accused alongside former State House chief ICT officer Chance Chingwalungwalu of stealing an intelligence computer.
The case was adjourned to an unspecified date as magistrate Viva Nyimba, who is presiding over the case, was reportedly out of the duty station.