Business tycoon Thom Mpinganjira has challenged High Court judge Dorothy DeGabrielle’s decision not to recuse herself from the judge bribery case against him in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
On May 12 2021, DeGabrielle refused to recuse herself from hearing the matter on the grounds that the allegations contained in
Mpinganjira’s application were without substance and that the application was ill-intentioned against her. The defence had made the application on May 11.
But in a sworn statement filed by Mpinganjira’s lawyer Patrice Nkhono in the highest court on the land on May 26 2021, the applicant argues that between March 8 and May 5 2021, DeGabrielle and High Court Judge president Sylvester Kalembera, through certain specified individuals, offered to secure the applicant’s acquittal or a suspended sentence in the case.
The document further states that the said individual offered the acquittal or a suspended sentence in exchange with the sum of K200 million payable after the delivery of “such favourable decision in the said criminal proceedings”.
Reads the affidavit in part: “The applicant refused to accept the offer in that regard and instead instructed us as his legal practitioners to apply that the trial judge in the said criminal proceedings should recuse herself on the ground that in the circumstances she would not be or would not be seen to be an independent and impartial judge.
“Wherefore in view of the foregoing premises, the applicant prays that this court makes an interim order staying the trial proceedings in High Court.”
In its affidavit filed by State lawyer Reyneck Matemba, the State as the respondent, objected the application saying it was made in bad faith and was a ploy to delay and derail the criminal trial which started with the irregular and illegal cancellation of the warrant of arrest obtained against Mpinganjira.
Reads the document in part: “Just like the application for recusal of the trial judge and the application for stay of the criminal
proceedings in the High Court, the present application has been made in bad faith, it is a continuation of the same ploy to delay and derail the criminal trial, it amounts to an abuse of the court process as the allegations made against the trial judge as well as Judge Sylvester Kalembera are based on hearsay evidence and therefore baseless, unsubstantiated, ill-informed and without merit.”
The Supreme Court has since set this morning to start hearing the appeal which will be heard in the chamber.
In an interview yesterday, Nkhono confirmed that the defence appealed to the Supreme Court and that Justice Rezine Mzikamanda will be hearing the application.
Mpinganjira was found with a case to answer on April 15 this year. He was arrested in January 2020 and is accused of attempting to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court, who presided over the presidential election nullification case