The High Court in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, has discharged interdicted Secretary to the Treasury Milton Kutengule following failure by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to prosecute him, seven years after his arrest in October 2005.
Kutengule’s lawyer, Kalekeni Kaphale, said in an interview on Wednesday the discharge means that government has to take his client back into employment and pay him salaries and other benefits in arrears because he was not receiving anything for the past seven years.
Kaphale said High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa, under Section 302(a) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code, discharged Kutengule from the alleged criminal offence.
Kutengule, who remained interdicted during the period as the matter was still in court, was arrested in October 2005 for allegedly abusing government’s K20 million when he opened a credit scheme account at the closed Finance Bank of Malawi.
Said Kaphale in the interview: “Remember he was Secretary to the Treasury, automatically, he has to be taken back into employment. Government can choose to deploy him elsewhere.”
The defence lawyer said whereas some court discharges allow the prosecution to reopen matters upon availability of evidence, Kutengule’s discharge is equivalent to an acquittal and ACB would not be able to reopen the case.
Kutengule was answering to two counts of abuse of office and, according to Kaphale, the counts are misdemeanours prosecutable within two years. He observed that in Kutengule’s case, that period elapsed.
In September 2009, Kaphale applied for the discharge of his client on grounds that the ACB was not ready for trial while his client was still on bail and could not secure alternative employment.
Despite the court’s warning on October 5 2009 that it was going to discharge Kutengule, the matter dragged on until Tuesday this week when the court freed the former Treasury boss.
Initially, Kutengule was charged with 28 counts, but his lawyers fought and had them reduced to
six, three, then finally to two.