The High Court in Lilongwe has started hearing the case in which two businesspersons Maxwell Namata and Luke Kasamba have been charged with theft and money laundering in the ongoing Capital Hill Cashgate trials.
The two pleaded not guilty to the two counts that they stole K24 million from government and proceeded to use the proceeds for their personal use.
The State paraded two witnesses, former director of Crossmarketing Limited Khumbo Nyirenda and director of finance in the Ministry of Tourism Kenson Mbwana.
In his testimony, Nyirenda said he had no knowledge of how the money ended up at Crossmarketing, a company in which Kasamba is director, because he left the company in 2010.
The State also had trouble proving that the K24 million (US$58 969) was stolen from the Ministry of Tourism because Mbwana said he was not aware of the cheque and that the theft might not have taken place in the ministry because the budget was intact.
Lawyers for Namata and Kasamba, Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita, did not bother to cross-examine the two State witnesses.
The State is expected to parade two more witnesses when hearing resumes on March 28 before High Court judge Annabel Mtalimanja.
Meanwhile, the court has thrown out two applications in which lawyers for Namata and Kasamba wanted the court to order that the State vary the charges against their clients because of duplicity.
The lawyers had earlier raised objections that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had served the defence with a summary of the witness statements and not the actual statements as required.
State prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu argued that the first offence of theft was committed before the second offence of money laundering and they contained different elements.
“The fact that the same amount stolen is subject of the same offence of money laundering does not make it one and the same offence,” Nyasulu argued.
But Kita argued on the point of wording of charges which he said would not accord his clients fair trial as they would not understand the charges against them.
However, Mtalimanja said the accused persons could not dictate how they should be charged, but could only demand that the charges be framed according to applicable procedure but with the right to fair trial.
Mtalimanja said the charges were clear and there was no duplicity in charging the accused on two separate counts of theft and money laundering.