Former president Bakili Muluzi’s corruption trial started in earnest at the High Court in Blantyre on Thursday with his lawyers cross-examining first prosecution witness, Victor Banda, who varied some figures in the charge.
Hearing of the matter was initially scheduled to start on Monday, but it was adjourned to yesterday after the prosecution witness failed to show up to fulfil his medical appointment at Embangweni in Mzimba.
Muluzi and his former personal assistant Violet Whiskey are accused of misappropriating $11 million (about K7.6 billion at present exchange rate, but the court is quoting the 2005 value of K1.7 billion) in public funds.
Banda served as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) assistant director in its formative years during Muluzi’s term of office and was lead investigator in the matter.
Particulars of the offence are that Muluzi was allegedly in possession of “pecuniary resources” amounting to K1 740 166 712. 32 which was reasonably suspected to have been corruptly acquired in that the amount was disproportionate to his official emoluments as President of Malawi or other known sources of income amounting to K44 895 383.62 and having been requested and required by/at ACB offices to give reasonable explanation in relation to the amount he failed to do so.
However, the highlight of yesterday’s proceedings was the trimming of the K1.7 billion figure with about K30 million after the prosecution witness agreed that the money should not have been part of the accumulative figure.
Among others, the prosecution witness agreed to be removed from the K1.7 billion money that was deposited into Muluzi’s account between March 4 1999 and July 21 2001 by Ntaja Trading and Distributors (the former president’s company), Loita Investment Bank (from fixed deposit) and Kalaria Wholesalers, amounting to K20 million.
But the witness declined to also accept that other payments made to Muluzi’s accounts such as the K12.7 million from Comfort General Dealers and K8 million from Chitsime Drilling Company (owned by former First Lady Anne Muluzi) be removed arguing that he would only do so upon an explanation from the accused person.
The defence further argued that in investigating Muluzi, the State deliberately excluded other sources of income such as Ntaja Trading and Distributors which was making a monthly turnover of more than K1 billion, Keza Properties and Atupele Properties.
Muluzi’s lawyers also argued that the witness had no reasonable suspicion that the money was corruptly acquired as such should be deducted from the K1.7 billion figure.
But Banda argued: “The suspicion still remains unless the first accused provides an explanation then it would be reasonable to deduct the money.”
The High Court is expected to conclude trial of the matter by April 22 2016 with any extensions restricted to the first week of May.
The case dates back to 2006 and has now taken about 10 years due to numerous adjournments mainly attributed to the former president’s ill health.
After nearly five-hours of Tamando Chokhoto, who is the lead counsel for Muluzi, grilling Banda, presiding Judge Maclean Kamwambe adjourned the proceedings to this morning. n