The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it expects to make more arrests in connection with an alleged attempt to bribe High Court of Malawi judges set to deliver judgement in the presidential election nullification petition case.
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba indicated this in an interview at the High Court in Blantyre yesterday, one week after the graft-busting body arrested business mogul Thom Mpinganjira for his alleged role in the attempt.
He said: “More arrests should be expected because our investigations have not stopped.”
Two weeks ago, Matemba also kept a lid on names of the alleged masterminds of the plot to bribe the judges and only said there were two suspects, one from the private sector and the other “working for one of the arms of government”.
During yesterday’s interview, he maintained the bureau’s position to conceal the identity of the other suspect he had hinted works in the public sector.
Mpinganjira, who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited and board chairperson of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), was arrested on January 22 2020 following a formal complaint from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on November 28 2019 that two of the five judges hearing the case reported bribery attempts.
Yesterday, Matemba said the bureau does not plan to re-arrest Mpinganjira in the event of the High Court reversing an order quashing his arrest warrant, but is ready to formally charge the entrepreneur.
Speaking after the High Court shifted to this afternoon hearing of the review of Zomba Magistrate’s Court decision to release Mpinganjira at midnight last Wednesday, he said the bureau was ready to formally charge the businessperson.
Matemba said: “We are ready to formally charge Mpinganjira and we will give him an opportunity to apply for bail. We do not anticipate re-arresting him again.
“At 2pm [on Tuesday] we will be at the High Court and depending on the outcome [of the review of the Zomba file], then we will proceed to the magistrate’s court to charge him. We are ready.”
The business mogul is facing ACB on two fronts, one in the High Court where ACB is challenging the order quashing his warrant of arrest and the second in the magistrate’s court where he is to be charged under the Corrupt Practices Act on allegations of attempting to bribe High Court of Malawi judges hearing the presidential election nullification petition case.
In a communication to the parties in Criminal Case Number 3 of 2020 yesterday, the High Court said it will hear from both the applicant (ACB) and the respondent (Mpinganjira) before exercising its power to review the Miscellaneous Criminal Case Number 1 of 2020 on which the magistrate in Zomba made his ruling.
The order quashing Mpinganjira’s arrest over an alleged attempt to bribe judges hearing the elections case, raised eyebrows from several quarters, including the Malawi Law Society and legal scholars who questioned the rationale. The Judiciary ordered a review of the magistrate’s decision.
High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba said the Judiciary assigned High Court Judge Dorothy Kamanga to review the order Zomba-based principal resident magistrate Ben Chitsamile issued on Wednesday night cancelling the initial warrant the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court had granted the ACB.
Commenting on the Zomba magistrate’s decision, Matemba, who travelled from his Lilongwe base yesterday for the case, said his office obeyed the ruling because the High Court had ordered for a review.
He said: “We could have given a wrong picture that we are ignoring the High Court initiative.”
The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo concluded hearing the matter on December 20 2019. The judges indicated that they would deliver their judgement within 45 days from that date.
In the case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections—UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)—want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party, who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.