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Collins Magalasi pleads not guilty to abuse of office

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Steven Kayuni

Former Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) chief executive officer (CEO) Collins Magalasi Thursday pleaded not guilty to two charges of abuse of office and fraud when he appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Shyreen Chirwa in Lilongwe.

The former chief economic adviser to former president Peter Mutharika is being accused of abusing his office when he allegedly used public funds to pay K10.5 million as accommodation for Democratic Progressive Party officials at Kanjedza Lodge, Oasis Hotel and Heritage Serendib between July and August 2018.

The money was allegedly released on the pretext that it would be used for conducting sensitisation meetings.

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Economist Magalasi, who was clad in a navy blue suit, blue necktie and black facemask, looked composed as he took plea in a sparsely packed courtroom.

Immediately after the Mera ex-CEO pleaded not guilty to the charges, Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni told the court that the State would parade seven witnesses in the case.

Kayuni further said the State needed three days to complete giving their evidence against Magalasi.

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Magistrate Chirwa set March 9 to 11 this year as dates for case-hearing.

Soon after the case was adjourned, Magalasi was back in the dock, this time alongside business partner Dorothy Shonga Nkhoma, Mera spokesperson Patrick Maulidi and Mera Procurement Officer Bright Mbewe, to answer another case of fraud, money laundering and entering into procurement with an employee, which the Public Procurement Act prohibits.

Magalasi, Shonga Nkhoma and Maulidi are alleged to have induced, in August 2019, the Internal Procurement and Disposal Committee of Mera to approve procurement of items worth K107 million through Vink Enterprise, a company belonging to Shonga Nkhoma, who is Magalasi’s business partner.

Lawyers representing Magalasi, Shonga Nkhoma and Maulidi asked the court that the charge sheet be amended, saying some of the counts were not specific to their clients.

During the session, the court also heard that Mbewe had parted ways with his lawyer, Powell Nkhutabasa, and that he was representing himself yesterday.

Kayuni told the court that his side was ready to furnish the defence side with an amended charge sheet by 1pm yesterday so that the case could proceed at 2pm.

But one of the defence lawyers objected to the proposal, saying he had another meeting at 2pm.

After quick negotiations, the two sides settled that the case should resume on Monday, when the four accused are expected to take plea.

Senior Resident Magistrate Chirwa has since adjourned the case to 3pm on Monday.

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