It never rains but pours for former president Peter Mutharika and former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara as the High Court in Lilongwe has ordered sheriffs to seize their property worth about K22 million for failing to pay legal costs.
The two were found guilty of forcing Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea to go on leave pending retirement, and were ordered to shoulder legal costs amounting to K69.5 million.
However, a seizure order issued at the High Court Lilongwe Registry yesterday by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, dated May 4 2021, shows that the two only managed to pay K47 million, and now face sheriffs for the remainder of the costs.
Mutharika and Muhara, were on March 12 2021 ordered to pay the legal fees to lawyers representing Malawi Law Society (MLS), Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates in Malawi.
It reads: “Whereas in the above named action, it was on the 12th day of March 2021, adjudged that the Respondents, do pay the Applicants the sum of K69 507 461.00 in party and party costs. And whereas the aforementioned Respondents have only paid K47 437 125.11 and they remain indebted to the Applicants in the sum of K22 070 335.89.
“You are hereby ordered to seize and sell all of the moveable property of the above-named Prof Arthur P. Mutharika and Lloyd Muhara, except that exempted from seizure under the Sheriffs Act, so as to realise the judgement debt in the sum of K22 070 335.89 and the costs of your execution of this enforcement order.”
In an interview yesterday, lawyer for HRDC Khumbo Soko confirmed the development, saying the two failed to pay the money; hence, the decision.
He said: “I can confirm that we have obtained the order to seize assets. The two were ordered to pay some money which they didn’t. We first garnished their bank accounts and now we want to collect the assets.”
One of Mutharika’s lawyer Mwayi Banda could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The three institutions sought a judicial review on the decision by Mutharika through Muhara to send Nyirenda and Twea on leave pending retirement ahead of the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election.
On August 28 2020, Justice of Appeal Charles Mkandawire (then High Court judge) faulted Mutharika and Muhara for interfering with the role of the Judiciary, saying they had no powers to force the Chief Justice and justice of Appeal or any other judge to go on leave pending retirement.
After this, lawyers that represented HRDC, Association of Magistrates in Malawi and MLS, being applicants in the matter, asked the court to order Mutharika and Muhara to personally pay the costs.
The two defendants were on March 12 2021 ordered to pay K69.5 million in legal fees but they applied to the court to put aside the execution of order for them to pay costs.
However, in his ruling dated March 22 2021, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda said there was no merit in their application.
The two had wanted the court to review the K69.5 million legal costs, arguing, they should have been on the lower side.
However, lawyers for MLS, HRDC and Association of Magistrates in Malawi had already started the process of enforcing the order for costs, having served banks with third party debt order, and now their properties face seizure by sheriffs.
In March, Lilongwe chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa renewed orders restricting access to bank accounts for Mutharika, his wife Gertrude Mutharika, his bodyguard Norman Chisale and former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi in the cement saga case.
During a recent media briefing at his Mangochi residence, Mutharika argued that government was deliberately not unfreezing his accounts so that he should not support the Democratic Progressive Party, for which he is president.