High Court Judge Rowland Mbvundula on Friday, January 22, 2021 dismissed an application by former President Peter Mutharika seeking relief from the judiciary to reserve a Restriction Notice (RN) issued by the Ant-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The notice instructed Standard Bank, where Mutharika and his wife Gertrude hold accounts, should not allow or facilitate the withdraw of any amount of money by any person including the account holder.
In August last year ACB froze the personal bank accounts of Mutharika and his wife, Gertrude, in a probe seeking to uncover his role in a K5 billion cement scandal.
The bureau argues that Mutharika’s tax number was used to import cement duty-free between 2018 and 2019.
After successfully applied to the court to freeze the accounts, the three month period expired and the State delayed for a month to renew it, which was also successfully done.
This forced Mutharika through his lawyer Samuel Tembenu to apply to the high court to reverse the RN.
However, in his ruling Justice Mbvundula found that the expiry of the three months period, Mutharika was at liberty to access his accounts without seeking the court’s blessings.
He further noted that the renewal of the notice by ACB was not an appeal but a new process which came about because there earlier notice has expired.
“As already stated, there was none in existence to unfreezing at the time of the filing of the present application. Section 23 (3) of the Criminal Procedures Act (CPA) is clear that the respondent may cancel an existing restriction notice. Consequently the person against whom the restriction notice was issued is free to access his bank accounts without seeking the respondent’s or anyone else’s permission, including that of the bank to which the notice was issued.
“In the present case, therefore, the applicant was, as of November 25, 2020 (the date when he filed the within application to reverse the RN), at liberty to access his bank accounts herein without the aid of the court, unless he was restrained from doing so (which is not alleged) as there was no restriction notice in existence,” said Justice Mbvundula.
He therefore dismissed the application with costs.