High Court judge Esmie Chombo on Friday granted the State the approval to try businessman Stafford Mpoola alongside some civil servants—including former budget director Paul Mphwiyo—in a case in which they are accused of laundering K1.6 billion of public funds.
This comes after the State applied to the court that Mpoola, owner of Stadal Building Contractors, and the other contractors—Sympathy Chisale, Idris Chaika, Cecilia Ngambi and Ndaona Satema who are answering separate cases related to the looting of public money, be jointly tried with the civil servants they connived with.
Among the accused civil servants are former accountant general David Kandoje, director of finance Roosevelt Ndovi, Clemence Madzi (accounts officer), Auzius Kazombo Mwale (director of asset management and finance), George Banda (accountant at Tourism) and Cashgate convict Maxwell Namata.
Kandoje is suspected to have authorised the payment of two cheques amounting to K500 million payable to Stadal Building Contractors without appropriate supporting documents.
Kandoje and other civil servants are expected to be charged of ‘abuse of public office, contrary to section 25 B (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act; procuring of a person for the improper payment of public money contrary to Section 88g (1) of the Public Finance Management Act, and theft contrary to Section 178 as read together with Section 21 of the Penal Code.
In its application, the State—which was represented by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director Reyneck Matemba—asked the court to try the contactors and top government officials jointly in response to accusations from the public as well as Parliament that the two offices were selective in the way they conducted Cashgate trials.
Kachale argued further that trying the people together would help speed up the cases as well as saving time for the courts.
She said the action would also benefit Mpoola and the other contractors as they would be answering the charges with the people they connived with to embezzle the public funds.
Kachale told the court that if the application was granted, the State was ready to proceed with the matter with all the evidence and parade witnesses within 21 days.
However, lawyer representing Mpoola, Meyer Chisanga, told the court that the State had harassed his client for two years, which, he said, was neither fair nor in the interest of justice.
“My lord, don’t be carried away by the State. It is the same State that arrested my client in 2013, but two years down the line, they are still not yet ready to prosecute,” said Chisanga.
Matemba admitted that they delayed largely because there was a lot of evidence against Mpoola.
According to Matemba, some information relating to the case was concealed and needed more time to investigate.
In her ruling, judge Chombo said the State was free to add Mpoola and other individuals to the case, but advised the State that before it commences, they should provide all disclosures and evidence.
The matter has been adjourned to November 11. n