The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) last evening re-arrested business mogul Thomson Mpinganjira after the High Court of Malawi faulted a Zomba Magistrate’s Court order that quashed his initial warrant of arrest as illegal, incorrect and improper.
In her judgement after reviewing the file, High Court Judge Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga also ordered the registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal to refer private practrice lawyer Lusungu Gondwe and Zomba principal resident magistrate Ben Chitsakamire to authorities for disciplinary action over the manner the initial warrant of arrest was quashed.
In an interview after the court hearing in Blantyre yesterday, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said Mpinganjira would appear before the magistrate court today to be formally charged and proceed with bail application.
He said: “We [the bureau] have advised his [Mpinganjira’s] lawyers that we will formally charge him tomorrow at 9am and will also proceed with bail application hearing.”
Matemba said the bureau could have proceeded with hearing the bail application soon after yesterday’s decision, but due to security concerns they did not want to fall in a situation that the court was frowning at—sitting at night.
Mpinganjira, who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited and board chairperson of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), was expected to be formally charged soon after the hearing of a review of the order Chitsakamile made on the night of January 22, 2020.
During the review hearing, Kamanga found that the order that magistrate Chitsakamile made was irregular because the file that he based his ruling on had insufficient information, missing documents and that the magistrate did not scrutinise the same.
The judge admonished the magistrate and Gondwe, in the process ordering disciplinary proceedings against them by the Judicial Service Commission (for Chitsakamile) and Malawi Law Society (for Gondwe).
She said: “I order that Gondwe and Ritz should not represent Mpinganjira anymore in the criminal case.”
Kamanga found a litany of irregularities ranging from the application of the law and filing to the timing of the hearing.
She said the ACB could re-arrest Mpinganjira “if they [ACB] wish so”. Further, the judge noted that there was no hearing in Zomba as there was no record of the same.
Kamanga asked: “Who assigned the case file to the magistrate? This was a kangaroo court as there are no records that the lawyers appeared before the magistrate”
The judge also quashed an argument that his detention was illegal and a violation of the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court order to arrest and present him before the court.
Mpinganjira was arrested on January 22 2020 following a formal complaint from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on November 28 2019 that two of the five judges hearing the presidential election nullification petition case reported bribery attempts. Two weeks ago, Matemba said the masterminds of the alleged plot to bribe the judges were two suspects, one from the private sector and the other “working for one of the arms of government”.