Conclusion of the K1.7 billion (about $2.4million) graft case involving former president Bakili Muluzi and his then personal assistant Violet Whisky will delay further after the State applied for 30 days to review the matter.
The fresh application comes a month after the High Court also granted the State an application to re-organise itself following the recusal of one of its prosecutors Reyneck Matemba.
Matemba, who is deputy director general of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), recused himself from the case on May 5 2016 citing personal reasons.
However, when hearing resumed yesterday, State lead counsel Clement Mwala informed the court that ACB intends to review some counts against the accused and requested for 30 days to undertake the exercise.
Muluzi was initially charged with over 80 corruption-related offences that have since been trimmed down to 15, of which three he is answering with his co-accused, Whisky.
Mwala, whose contract as lead prosecutor was renewed by ACB on Sunday, said the unavailability of some of the State witnesses necessitated the reviewing of the counts.
Initially, ACB indicated it would parade 35 witnesses in the case, whose maximum penalty is life imprisonment. They included senior government officers, former civil servants, then diplomats and bank managers.
Said Mwala: “Due to passage of time, availability of some witnesses on some counts cannot be guaranteed. As such we pray for adjournment to such a time that will afford us the opportunity to make arrangements with our witnesses as well as undertake the review so that at the next hearing we do not have issues to disturb the flow of the case.”
In applying for the adjournment, Mwala, who missed the two previous court proceedings of the matter due to expiry of his contract, added that ACB had not made secured the availability of first State witness, Victor Banda, a former assistant director and ACB head of prosecution who resides in Mzimba.
The defence did not object to the State’s application but asked the court to allow the accused not to appear at the next meeting “until there is an assurance hearing will proceed.”
However, the way forward of the matter will be known on Thursday when presiding Judge Maclean Kamwambe is scheduled to make his ruling and provide direction.
The case has been running since 2009 and since cross-examination of Banda resumed on April 11 2016, over K100 million (about $ 144 551) has been deducted from the said K1.7 billion Muluzi and Whisky are accused to have fraudulently acquired. n