As trial continues in the K1.7 billion ($2.4 million) corruption case involving former president Bakili Muluzi, the State has now failed to provide proof of corruption in fiscal transactions amounting to more than K1.1 billion ($1.5 million).
This follows a further K500 million-plus which principal witness Victor Banda confirmed in the High Court in Blantyre yesterday that he had no evidence that Muluzi corruptly obtained during his reign.
In earlier court appearances, Banda also failed to substantiate corruption claims in the dealings of over K600 million deposited in Muluzi’s personal bank accounts.
Since early this year, the defence counsel, led by Tamando Chokotho, has been cross-examining Banda, a former assistant director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), who also headed investigations of Muluzi’s alleged corrupt acts.
Muluzi is being accused alongside Violet Whiskey, his former personal assistant, of corruptly acquiring about $11 million (K1.7 billion then) when he was still in power and immediately after his retirement in May 2004.
However, during yesterday’s cross-examination, the defence focused on receipt of foreign funds amounting to about K1.1 billion thought to have fraudulently been acquired by Muluzi and deposited into his personal local bank accounts, mainly at National Bank Zomba Branch.
Among others, the money came from governments and companies in Libya, Kingdom of Morocco, Belgium, United States of America (USA), South Africa, Rwanda and Republic of China (Taiwan)—principal benefactor with about K689 million.
Throughout the cross-examination, Banda said he had no proof that Muluzi obtained the money corruptly, but insisted there were “suspicions of corruption” in the transactions.
To corroborate his claims, Banda cited some cheques from the Republic of China which were deposited into Muluzi’s personal bank accounts that were marked “for RCDP, for NP, for RCDP Phase II and RCDP Kawinga.”
Said Banda: “Based on the general comment the Chinese Ambassador made when we met him as part of our investigations that any funds paid by the Republic of China were meant for development projects, the suspicion of corruption still remains because there must have been activities those funds were meant for but the accused did not explain to us when asked.”
Earlier, Judge Maclean Kamwambe reserved his ruling on an application by the defence to compel the State to review and amend the charge sheet or not.
The defence requested the court to force the State to look at the charge sheet again and amend the charges in order for the prosecution not “to amount persecution.”
The defence argued that some charges the accused are answering needed to be taken out of the charge sheet as they had no basis.
Trial of the case continues today and according to Chokotho, the defence expects to complete cross-examining Banda before summoning another witness.