The High Court of Malawi in Blantyre has dismissed businessperson and philanthropist Thomson Mpinganjira’s bail application pending appeal.
In his ruling delivered in chambers, High Court Judge John Chirwa observed that the grounds Mpinganjira based his application on had no merit, as such, they were not exceptional to warrant his release on bail pending his appeal.
The judge, who dismissed the application with costs, also observed that the court that tried Mpinganjira is of similar jurisdiction to his and, therefore, would not make an opinion of a similar court.
He said Mpinganjira will have to remain at Chichiri Prison where he is being held until his appeal is determined.
The business mogul, who was not present in court, wanted the court to grant him bail pending appeal of both his nine-year sentence and conviction on the basis that, among others, his conviction was not supported by evidence as there were no essential elements of the offences he was convicted of.
In an interview after the ruling, one of Mpinganjira’s lawyers, Alexious Nampota, said they will consult their client to explore the options that are available.
He said: “We brought to the court a number of circumstances which we wanted the court to look at. Now, we will have to discuss with our client. As lawyers, we take instructions so we will explain to him and see the way forward on this.”
In a separate interview, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) chief legal and prosecutions officer Victor Chiwala said as a prosecution team they are happy with the outcome especially that it has been dismissed with costs.
He said the ACB is also ready to challenge Mpinganjira if he decides to file an application for bail in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
Said Chiwala: “If they decide to go there, we will also go for defence. We know that they may not succeed because the law states that such an application has to be heard after the hearing of the appeal is done.”
Documents filed in court indicate that Mpinganjira wanted to be granted bail on the basis that there was a mistrial as, among others, his case was heard virtually, an arrangement he described as unconstitutional and unlawful as it infringed on his right to a public trial.
The court documents also show that Mpinganjira argued that his appeal may not be heard anytime soon due to lack of a quorum in the Supreme Court and further that his appeal may succeed since his conviction is not supported by any evidence.
Besides, Mpinganjira also argued that the court wrongfully and unreasonably interjected while his lawyers were conducting cross-examination in the course of trial which was unlawful.
Mpinganjira was arrested in January 2020 following a complaint Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda lodged with the ACB that there were attempts to bribe five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court to rule in favour of Democratic Progressive Party president Peter Mutharika in the presidential election nullification petition.
He was answering six charges under the Corrupt Practices Act, but was convicted on two counts.
Mpinganjira was found guilty on September 10 2021 by High Court Judge Dorothy DeGabrielle and was subsequently sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment on October 5 2021.