Business tycoon Thom Mpinganjira has pleaded not guilty to all charges the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) levelled against him in a case in which he is being accused of attempting to bribe Constitutional Court judges.
Mpinganjira appeared before High Court judge Dorothy DeGabrielle for plea in Blantyre yesterday.
DeGabrielle has since ordered that the trial will commence on August 19 this year.
In an interview, one of Mpinganjira’s lawyers Patrice Nkhono said they asked the court to have an order that stays all proceedings as they await a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling on their appeal against High Court judge Jack N’riva’s dismissal of their application for a judicial review on the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s decision to commit the case to the High Court.
The lawyer said the DPP did not give reasons for committing the case to the High Court, hence his client would have lost one right of appeal.
Said Nkhono: “If the case (is tried) in the magistrate’s court, he [Mpinganjira] would have a right to appeal to the High Court. That right of appeal has been taken away by transferring the case to the High Court. This means he will only have one right of appeal to the Supreme Court.”
But reacting to Nkhono’s sentiments, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said it was unfortunate that the defence was raising that argument now when the court has not convicted the accused person.
He said the defence lawyers wanted the court to adjourn so that their client did not take a plea.
But Mpinganjira later pleaded not guilty to all counts after DeGabrielle directed the court to proceed.
Supreme Court judge Edward Twea has since directed the defence to serve the DPP, Attorney General and the ACB their arguments within seven days.
ACB applied to be added as an interested party in an appeal of the judicial review.
In January this year, ACB arrested Mpinganjira after Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda complained to the bureau that a business person and a public servant wanted to bribe the five judges who presided over the 2019 presidential election case.
Mpinganjira is answering charges related to attempting to induce High Court judges Mike Tembo and Healey Potani to exercise their functions corruptly by offering them K100 million.
He is also being accused of attempting to induce a public officer to abuse his office by attempting to persuade Tembo and Potani to accept the bribe and rule the election case in favour of former president Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission who were the respondents in the case.