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Court dismisses K70 billion claim

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By Macdonald Thom:

HER CASE DISMISSED— Jeffrey

The High Court in Lilongwe has dismissed a claim of compensation in excess of K70 billion Democratic Progressive Party secretary general Greseldar Jeffrey and three others made following their acquittal of a corruption case.

Jeffrey and Brian Kachingwe went to court in July 2014, seeking compensation for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, loss of business and properties, breach of contract and defamation, following their acquittal on charges of corruption in 2011 for the 2000 case, alongside the late Philip Kaphikire and Brighton Chakhaza.

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In his ruling Monday, Judge Charles Mkandawire said, having looked at the evidence, the four had failed to establish on a balance of probability that their arrests of 2000 were without justification.

He also said their prosecution was lawfully enforced, as it was made following a report by the Auditor General (AG), and a recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (Pac) that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should take action on issues raised in the report.

He said, even if the 2011 judgement were in favour of the claimants, prosecution was justified.

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“It is clear from the judgement that the acquittal was based on technicalities. My finding is that they have not satisfied me that their prosecution was without justification,” Mkandawire said.

Kaphikire died in 2003 followed by Chakhaza in 2004.

Jeffrey and Kachingwe were seeking the compensation alongside Agnes Kaphikire (as personal representative of Phillip Kaphikire) and Tadala Chakhaza (as personal representative of Brighton Chakhaza).

On defamation, the judge said issues the claimants were raising did not come from the ACB, but some came from the AG while others from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mkandawire also wondered why the issue of breach of contract could be blamed on the ACB as everything was started by a report by the AG.

“I find that the plaintiffs have failed to prove that the defendant is liable for damages of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation and breach of contract. I also have problems to accept that the defendant should be held liable for business losses and anything related to that because the seizure orders and the freezing orders were lawfully obtained,” he said.

Mkandawire also said the issue of the orders was clarified by the Supreme Court of Appeal, saying he would find it contradictory to order otherwise.

“In conclusion, I have no other option but dismiss this matter with costs,” Mkandawire said.

According to ACB Director General, Reyneck Matemba, an assessment of what the four were claiming showed that the four could have been given K70 billion or more if they succeeded.

He, however, said the ACB is happy for saving the government’s money.

“We are very excited. We just had to defend the case to the best we could and we are glad that we did. A lot of money was at stake. We had to put all that we could to defend this matter and I am glad that we have managed to do that,” Matemba said.

But lawyer for Jeffrey and others, Ralph Mhone, said they would take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“We will appeal this case and see what the Supreme Court is going to say. One of the reasons the judge has raised is that, because the Supreme Court said in 2003 that this seizure was lawful, before the acquittal, it still remains lawful. We would like to know from the Supreme Court whether that is a new principle now to be applied in our courts. We will definitely be appealing to the Supreme Court,” Mhone said.

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