Business tycoon Thom Mpinganjira has withdrawn his plea bargain with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who are prosecuting his alleged judge bribery case in the High Court.
Mpinganjira is accused of allegedly attempting to bribe the five High Court of Malawi judges sitting as the Constitutional Court in the May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition case.
During the court hearing on October 22 2020, he applied for plea bargaining with the State “to save time and resources in the case”, according to Mpinganjira’s lead lawyer Patrice Nkhono, and presiding Judge Dorothy DeGrabrielle accepted the application.
But in an interview yesterday, Nkhono said they have withdrawn from the because the evidence which the ACB disclosed did not speak to the charges levelled against their client.
He said: “That is dead in the water now. Last week, when we appeared before the court, we communicated to the ACB that we will not be pursuing the plea bargaining anymore. So, it ended without any agreement.
“On our part, in the discussions that were held with ACB but also with our client, it became clear that he [Mpinganjira] wasn’t accepting anything at the end of the day. So, we walked away from it. So, that’s over.”
Asked if they have informed the court on their decision to withdraw their plea bargaining application, Nkhono said they will report to court because they informed it at the beginning.
When contacted, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said the bureau has no problem with the defence’s decision to withdraw the plea bargaining negotiation, saying they are the ones that applied to the court.
He said the evidence that were disclosed to the defence is the same evidence they presented in court through its six witnesses which include five judges and an ACB investigator.
Said Matemba: “If the defence thinks the evidence that we presented doesn’t speak to the charges levelled against Mr. Mpinganjira, let it be. The court will decide on that.”
Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition) defines plea bargaining as “the process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval”.
It says the process involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser offence or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than the possible for the graver charge.
Mpinganjira who was arrested in January this year, is accused of attempting to bribe five Constitutional Court judges who presided over the presidential election case to rule in favour of former president Peter Mutharika. The five judges are now part of the ACB’s witnesses.
Among others, Mpinganjira who resigned as FDH Holdings Limited chairperson, is answering charges under the Corruption Practice Act such as offering an advantage to a public officer, attempting to induce public officers to exercise functions of their offices corruptly and for purportedly attempting to influence public officers by offering K100 million to High Court Judge Mike Tembo, a member of a five judge-panel.