Ministry of Finance former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 14 other accused persons in the infamous Cashgate case have filed an application to demand the removal of judge Esmie Chombo from the case.
The accused persons argue that the manner the High Court judge had her contract extended after its expiry was irregular and they may not have a fair trial before her.
The Judiciary, through High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Gladys Gondwe, is opposing the application through a sworn affidavit.
The 15, accused of defrauding K2.4 billion public funds in 2013, were found with a case to answer.
Mphwiyo and his co-accused argue in their application made to Justice Chombo that from the minutes of the 340th Meeting of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) held in Lilongwe on August 24 2018, it is clear that by JSC Minute No. 48/18, the recommendation was to extend the tenure by 30 months.
“ However, by a memorandum to His Excellency the President then, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, from the Honourable Chief Justice dated 19th October, 2018…the extension sent to the President was for 18 months, after a special assessment by the Chief Justice on his own,” they argued.
But the registrar argued against the accused, and claimed to have full conduct of the matter as opposed to the accused who claim it was the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who has the full conduct of the matter.
“In so far as we are aware, it is the honourable the DPP that has conduct of this matter and if anything, the court herein. In any event, we will revisit this fact later,” observes Gondwe.
The other accused in the case of embezzling K2.4 billion, conspiracy to defraud government, holding property of government, theft and money laundering are David Bill Kandoje, Auzius Kazombo Mwale, Clemence Madzi, Roosevelt Ndovi, George N. Banda, Steve Likhuya Phiri, Michael Mphatso, Samuel Mzanda, Stanford Mpoola, Syphathy Chisale, Fatch Chiungano, Andrews Chilalika, Cecilia Ng’ambi and Ndaona Satema.
Mphwiyo was shot at the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 during the Joyce Banda administration.
His shooting opened a can of worms of what widely came to be known as Cashgate—the plundering of public funds at Capital Hill.