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Anti-Corruption Bureau frustrates Cashgate case

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The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has failed to prosecute Aaron Ntchindi Msowoya and another person who were arrested four years ago on money laundering charges related to Cashgate at the Ministry of Tourism’s Department of Tourism.

The case is but one of the many that ACB and Malawi Police Services (MPS) caught the attention of the Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court which wants them concluded swiftly or the cases will be discharged.

According to a notice posted at the court, Msowoya and the other have not been taken to court by the ACB on charges of money laundering and obtaining money by false pretence.

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The notice—which was copied to ACB and MPS headquarters, among others—warns them that the court would discharge the matters in terms of Section 247 (1) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Code if the state fails to appear before the courts for mention within a specified period of the notice.

However, in an email response, ACB Senior Public Relations Officer, Egrita Ndala, on Thursday said her organisation was ready to prosecute the case over a year ago but magistrates recused themselves from the case.

“The case started and one witness testified before the recusals,” Ndala said.

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She referred The Daily Times to the courts for more information on the matter— case 1145 of 2013—but she added that hearing would resume on September 6.

Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula declined to comment on the specifics of the cases that were threatened with the discharge as he had not seen the public notice but he defended the court’s decision.

“It is always at the court’s discretion to decide whether to discharge a case when prosecutors have failed to prosecute the case or bring the evidence before the court,” Mvula said.

Eight other cases on the public notice list were recorded this year and were supposed to be prosecuted by the police and MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera said the cases have been revived and would commence soon.

One of the cases involves Stella Asani, Cecilia Kumpukwe (sister to former president Joyce Banda) and Ackson Kalaile Banda who were arrested in April this year on suspicion that they forged a fake resignation letter purportedly written by Vice-President Saulosi Chilima.

However, Malawi Law Society Honorary Secretary, Michael Goba Chipeta, said even if the court discharges the cases, the laws of Malawi allow the State to bring back the matter within 12 months but an accused person would be automatically acquitted if one year elapses without the state prosecuting the matter.

The Msowoya case joins a long list of Cashgate cases that hang in limbo. The most prominent case involves Leonard Kalonga, former assistant director in the Ministry of Tourism, who was convicted in August 2015 but is yet to be sentenced.

On August 26 2015, the High Court convicted Kalonga, on his own plea of guilty, for stealing K3.7 billion in the ongoing Cashgate trials.

However, a long drawn-out fight between the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and ACB resulted in an impasse that was broken only in June last year when Justice Fiona Mwale ordered ACB to produce and surrender copies of documents it seized from the Cashgate convict. The documents were said to be critical to the sentencing process.

However, despite the ruling, Kalonga has not been sentenced and the office of the DPP has not explained why.

Another pending case involves former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, 10 former civil servants and nine contractors who are accused of being involved in the loss of K2.4 billion through fraudulent means.

Although the offices of DPP and ACB keep on assuring the nation that their offices are on course to tackling all cases, they have not set any specific target date for completion of all pending cases.

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