By Peter Kanjere:
The High Court in Lilongwe on Friday released on bail one of the 10 people who were convicted of conspiracy, theft and money laundering involving K201 million from the government coffers—on health grounds.
Justice Charles Mkandawire granted Tapiwa Ng’oma—who was convicted last week alongside other government accounts personnel, Chikondi Chimutu, Emmanuel Yesaya, Deusdedit Tenthani, Tendai Nayeja, Conrad Nambala, Squire Chakwana and Wides Mbuliro—the bail pending her sentencing.
Ng’oma, through her lawyer Innocent Kubwalo of Lion Rock Attorneys at Law, applied for bail days after the court revoked their bail conditions while waiting for sentencing at a later date.
Powell Nkhutabasa, who represented the law firm at the court on Friday, yesterday said they applied for Ng’oma’s release, pending sentencing.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Reyneck Matemba, who attended the court proceedings on Friday, Sunday said they did not object to the application because he saw the condition of the woman in her earlier court appearance when she was convicted last week.
“It is true. It is not like there was a fight. We did not object to the application for bail because of her medical condition. I only asked the court to put some conditions,” Matemba said.
Some of the conditions include that Ng’oma should surrender her travel documents, must not leave her Lilongwe home without ACB’s nod, allow the bureau to visit her once every week and produce two sureties including a parent.
The court gave ACB two weeks to make submissions on the sentencing before the court makes its ruling on the convicted persons, who include Cornelius Kaphamtengo and Yvonie Kaphamtengo, owners of Nova Technologies.
In the sworn statement supporting the bail application, Kubwalo argued successfully that “the applicant is eight months pregnant and is due to give birth next month.
“That owing to her condition, the applicant has lately been experiencing difficulties in breathing and swollen legs [and,] as a result of which, she has had to seek frequent medical attention. Owing to the condition of the applicant… it is only fair that the court considers staying the execution of its order revoking the applicant’s bail pending the sentencing and restores the bail as it would be risky to the health of the applicant and the unborn child if the applicant is to remain in prison while a waiting [for] sentence,” reads part of the statement.
Last week, Mkandawire convicted Cornelius and Yvonie, owners of Nova Technologies, alongside the eight government accounts’ personnel.
The money was received through five government cheques deposited into the account of Nova Technologies.
Mkandawire, however, acquitted Audney Kamtengeni, who was the seventh accused in the matter.
Nambala, according to Mkandawire, seemed to be the architect of the scheme.
“In this case, my finding as a court is that there was a systematic, well-organised and coordinated matter in which the money was shared by the accused persons…these accused persons really operated in consent… They were working in an inner cycle conspiracy. Each one of them played a role,” Mkandawire said.
On the charge of theft, the judge said Nova Technologies did not have a contract with Disability and Elderly Affairs Ministry.
He said there was a scheme where Nova Technologies was paid for work they never carried out.
On Kamtengeni, Mkandawire said he had some doubts on his involvement in the matter.
The case in question involves unprecedented plunder of the government resources, uncovered in 2012, and is commonly called Cashgate.
Several top government officials and ministers were arrested and convicted in connection with the case, which led to donors withdrawing direct budgetary support to Malawi.
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