The High Court of Malawi has given businessperson Zameer Karim rel i e f by stopping his criminal proceedings in the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court pending review of an amendment to the charge sheet.
The High Court order has come at a time the magistrate’s court was scheduled to continue with the proceedings on Tuesday.
But Karim, through his lawyer Alexious Nampota, sought an order on September 24 to put aside the proceedings in the lower court.
According to an order we have seen, the High Court has since called for an examination of the record of the criminal proceedings in the magistrate’s court of September 17 2021.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Nampota said the defence wants the High Court to initially determine the legality of amending the charge sheet by adding an offence of money laundering which was made at the close of the prosecution’s case.
He said: “When we were in court the last time the prosecution had finished parading witnesses. But before they closed their case, they brought an amendment bringing in a new charge of money laundering and we protested.
“Now to bring an offence when a case is finished is what we found irregular and we want the court to determine the regularity and legality of that order.”
Nampota said if the charge sheet is to be amended, it will mean recalling some witnesses for cross-examination. He said in that regard, there would be an irregularity since one of the crucial witnesses, Innocent Bottomani, passed away.
Bottomani, who was Malawi Police Service director of finance and commissioner, was the first State witness. He died in July this year due to Covid-19 complications.
But our efforts to seek a reaction from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni proved futile as he did not pick up our phone calls on numerous attempts and neither did he respond to our messages.
In the case, Karim—trading as Pioneer Investments—is accused of conspiring with the late Bottomani and Malawi Police Service deputy director of finance Grant Kachingwe, between December 14 2014 and September 19 2019 at the Ministry of Finance in Lilongwe and allegedly stealing K7 431 169 134 74 public funds.
Former president Peter Mutharika was also implicated in the food rations scandal after Karim donated K145 million of the proceeds to the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fundraising account whose sole signatory was Mutharika.
However, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) later cleared him of any wrong-doing.