High Court judge Charles Mkandawire yesterday criticised the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the handling of the matter involving Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general, Grezzeldar Jeffrey and three others, who are demanding K12 billion in compensation after being acquitted in 2011 on graft charges.
Apparently, the ACB had forgotten to appear in court on July 20 as set by the court. This angered Judge Mkandawire.
“Whilst I do appreciate that to err is human, it, however, comes as a shock to learn that such a case, which the defendant said was of importance to them, could be forgotten like that,” Mkandawire said.
“It is not clear from the submission as to who had forgotten to come to court on that day. If it is true, then one would not be wrong to say the Anti-Corruption Bureau is really not serious on matters of national importance such as this one,” reads the ruling dated November 2 2017.
The court has, however, ruled that the matter be reheard following an application the bureau made, after the court heard arguments of the applicants in the absence of ACB’s legal representation in July this year.
In the ruling on the application the bureau made through its lawyer Chrispin Khunga, Mkandawire, while acknowledging contribution of the relationship between lawyer David Bandawe and the ACB, said those who took over the matter did not conduct themselves as serious-minded officers of the court.
“To worsen things, in his submission, counsel for the defendant said his colleague who was to appear on his behalf on 20th July forgot to endorse the date in the diary and as such, there was no showing on his part.
“This further confirms my observation that there was lack of decorum in the way the defendant approached this matter. Either it was deliberate to sabotage the wheels of justice or due to sheer lack of professional experience,” he said.
It says, as a result of the desperation that the ACB found itself in, there were contradictions between what is in the affidavit in support of the application and the reasons given in the counsel’s submissions.
In the ruling, Mkandawire, however, says, in coming up with his decision on the matter, he looked at the interest of justice.
“I find this matter to be rather complex and that the court would also benefit a lot if both sides presented their story. Much as I do appreciate that this matter has dragged, it is however, in the interest of justice that such a gigantic claim by individuals should not proceed without hearing the other side despite the shoddy and casual approach that has been displayed by the defendant’s counsel,” reads the ruling.
It adds: “I am sure that those responsible for the institutional management of the defendant will seriously take into account the observations of the court herein and enforce professional discipline,” it reads.
Although he has ordered a re-hearing, Mkandawire says ACB should pay costs for the action.
“I therefore order that the matter herein should be re-heard. Due to the conduct of the defendant in this matter, I order that the defendant should be condemned to pay costs of the proceedings,” reads the conclusion of the ruling.
In July 2014, Jeffrey, Brian Kachingwe Phiri, Agnes Kaphikire [as personal representative of the late Phillip Kaphikire] and Tadala Chakhaza [as personal representative of Brighton Chakhaza], demanded the compensation following their arrest in 2000.
Jeffrey and others are being represented by lawyer Ralph Mhone.
In what became widely known as ‘K187 million scam’, exposed through an audit, about 55 people were implicated. Only four people were convicted and jailed and two of those convictions were set aside by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
During the 11-year trial, Jeffrey and the other three people seeking compensation were answering charges of corrupt practices with a public officer, obtaining money by false pretence, corrupt use of official powers, forgery and making a false warrant of money.
A statement of claim filed in court on July 17 2014 shows that Jeffrey and others’ demand of K12,135,984,477 is for aggravated and exemplary damages for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, defamation and damages for breach of contract.
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