Former president Bakili Muluzi’s K1.7 billion corruption case is set for a speedy trial in the High Court which wants to wrap up hearing of the case within two weeks.
Both the High Court and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) confirmed in separate interviews yesterday that hearing will proceed from April 11-22 2016 with any extensions restricted to the first week of May. The hearing will have minimal adjournments so that it is concluded quickly, according to the Judiciary and ACB.
The setting of the dates follows the defence’s move on Friday to withdraw its application to have the case under constitutional review.
In an interview on Monday, Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula said Muluzi’s defence team last Friday filed a notice to the High Court withdrawing the constitutional review case, which was before Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.
The High Court yesterday granted a permanent stay of the proceedings—meaning that the case will remain in the High Court.
“The case was before Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to certify it as a constitutional matter and then refer it to the Constitutional Court for determination. But following the withdrawal, the criminal case will proceed in the High Court as it was before, that is, before High Court Judge Maclean Kamwambe. [Judge] Kamwambe has since set the dates for hearing. It will be from 11 April 2016 to the first week of May 2016,” said Mvula.
ACB deputy director Reyneck Matemba, speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, confirmed the development.
He said the two parties to the case were supposed to go to court yesterday for a decision on whether it is necessary for the matter to go to the Constitutional Court.
“But the defence decided to withdraw the application that the matter should proceed to the Constitutional Court and they have also requested the court to give them a permanent stay of the proceedings pending a decision of the Constitutional Court. By withdrawing the application, it means this one falls off automatically,” said Matemba.
He confirmed that the court has scheduled that continued hearing of the case first starts from April 11 2016 to April 22 and if it is not concluded during this initial period, it will proceed from May 3 to May 6 2016.
Last year, the case came before Nyirenda after Muluzi’s lead lawyer, Tamando Chokotho, told Justice Kamwambe that he wanted the case to go to the Constitutional Court as per Rule 8(1) of the Courts (High Court) procedure on the interpretation of Application of the Constitution Rule.
Chokotho said he felt the issues being raised in the case were constitutional in nature.
Following that application, the High Court in Blantyre suspended the case where the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is prosecuting Muluzi and his then personal assistant Violet Whisky for allegedly diverting K1.7 billion of public funds into the former president’s personal account.
However, in July, Nyirenda asked the defence and prosecution lawyers to address some legal issues before he made a decision in the case.
Chokotho was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 as first democratically elected president, is accused of stealing $11 million donor money and was initially charged on 80 counts of allegedly siphoning aid cash into his personal account.
Muluzi’s case started in 2006 and has now taken about 10 years due to numerous adjournments mainly attributed to the former president’s illness and objections from the defence.