Vice President Saulos Chilima, today 1st September 2023, was back in court in a case where he is facing corruption related charges. He is now facing new charges from what he was initially arrested for in November 2022 that he had recieved $280,000 from Zunneth Sattar to influence some public contracts. The new charges do not mention the $280,000 but say “demanded and received unspecified amount of money”.
2: DISCLOSE ALL OR WITHDRAW THE CASE AS ACB IS ORDERED TO MAKE DISCLOSURES UNDER OATH: Having noted ACB’s reluctance to share disclosures Justice Kapindu has ordered the bureau’s lead prosecutor to share the disclosures under oath.
The ruling was a victory for the defence team which has been demanding the disclosures but ACB was reluctant to share the same. ACB lawyers mounted a fight to the request, saying disclosing under oath was dangerous because investigations keep on changing therefore providing disclosures under oath was not necessary.
Justice Kapindu said it was a constitutional right that the accused should be subjected to a fair trial hence the defence team was right to demand all disclosures before their client takes plea. The Judge further said the ACB had failed to explain what danger would arise if the disclosures were made under oath.
Buttressing the point earlier, lead defence lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale said the prosecution must disclose everything or else withdraw the case.
- CONTESTED DOCUMENTS
What took centre stage was the issue of disclosures over documents that ACB has refused to disclose. The defence and the prosecution were given a 30 minute break to tick the box on what was provided, to be provided and what would not be provided.
Among others, after that break, what the ACB said would not disclose include the data that was extracted from Zuneth Sattar gadgets as well as a report that cleared the current Inspector General of Police of any wrong doing in the Sattar related corruption cases. The clearance led to her appointment as IG by Parliament.
But the defence insisted that they needed all disclosures before their client takes plea. One of Chilima’s lawyers Kalekeni Kaphale argued that the state was in contravention of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code for failure to share disclosures in full and timely.
The defence argued that the report that cleared the IG was by extension a public document and wondered how the ACB was reluctant to disclose it. On the data that was extracted from Sattar gadgets, the defence said they needed those documents as part of disclosures as they prepare for defence.
However, the ACB countered this arguing that the said report contains some names whose privacy should be protected being not part of the trial – to which the defence said that should be decided by the court not the ACB. The ACB further said some of the issues being demanded are still in the custody of the National Crimes Agency (NCA) of the UK and that would only be released once their relevance is established.
Kaphale, sounding emotional, reacted to this:
“My Lord, ACB must disclose all disclosures or withdraw the case. Our client is being forced to stand trial yet information about his wrongdoing is hidden. Tell the NCA about the rights of the accused person in Malawi. In 2023, an accused person can not go to trial blind folded.”
- ACB WINS ON WITNESSES TUSSLE
One of the issues that ACB recorded victory today was on witnesses. The defence had complained that the ACB was going around interviewing witnesses but whose particulars have not been furnished to the defence. The court observed that the ACB was at liberty to interview anyone and only disclose those that they will bring to court.
- MEDIA COVERAGE:
Zodiak Broadcasting Station and Times Radio/Television have withdrawn their initial request to cover proceedings live. The court said no reason was provided and being their right to do so the court did not demand reasons.
- ADJOURNMENT/NEXT COURSE OF ACTION:
The case has since been adjourned to 25th September at 10 am. But before the adjournment, Judge Kapindu made the following orders:
a. That the report which ACB sent to Parliament clearing Inspector General of Police of Sattar related corruption issues before her appointment – be filed to the court by 6th September 2023.
b. That the Judge has reserved his ruling on the other contentious issues to 25th September.
c. That the court will also hear the defence’s application on the suitability of the ACB to prosecute the case due to conflict of interest.
d. The court will also hear preliminary objections to the new charge sheet.
e. That both parties must come prepared for plea taking and direction.