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Court rebuffs Batatawala, others

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Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate Martin Chipofya Monday dismissed an application by Abdul Karim Batatawala and three others to have their corruption charges discharged on account of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) not being able to commence prosecution on Monday.

Chipofya has, instead, adjourned the matter to April 25, saying this is the first time for the case to be adjourned during prosecution.

Batatawala, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services former director general Elvis Thodi, commissioner for operations Fletcher Nyirenda and deputy director Limbani Chawinga were arrested for various offences bordering on corruption and money laundering at the department.

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“The ACB Director General [Martha Chizuma] herself is here in court; so, we cannot say they are not willing to prosecute.

They are not able to commence today but they have given enough reasons. I have powers to discharge the case, yes, but I think there are enough grounds for me to adjourn the matter other than discharging the accused persons,” he said.

Chizuma had earlier told the court that the ACB was not able to serve disclosures on all the defendants due to, among other reasons, delayed funding owing to challenges in operations of the Integrated Financial Management Information System and that the bureau changed prosecutors after the initial ones recused themselves.

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Chizuma welcomed the ruling, saying they would comply with the new directions.

“We are happy that the court has not discharged the case. We are sure that we will be able to serve the disclosures before the date we have been given,” she said.

Chipofya gave the ACB up to 14 days to serve the defendants with a copy of prosecution consent from the Director of  Public Prosecutions and 31 days for the bureau to serve all the disclosures to the defendants before the hearing is held on April 25.

The ACB was expected to serve the defendants with the disclosures by February 10 but the bureau had only served one volume of the disclosures by February 25.

Batatawala’s lawyer Henry Phoya said their application was meant to make a statement that arresting authorities should start with investigations before arresting people.

“This practice of arresting people before investigations are completed is rampant among our arresting authorities. We are saying that, ‘please, finish all the investigations, organise all the witnesses, before arresting people’,” he said.

In a related development, the case in which Cotton Ginners Africa Limited is accused of defrauding Export Development Fund (EDF) of $5 million (approximately K4 billion) was back before Judge Sylvester Kalembera in the High Court Monday.

EDF Senior Credit Analyst Chikumbutso Chinyamunyamu was being cross-examined by Cotton Ginners Africa Limited lawyer Fostino Maere.

In his testimony, Chinyamunyamu told the court that Cotton Ginners Africa Limited lied that they wanted to use the money to buy cotton.

Cotton Ginners Africa Limited also got loans from other commercial banks but the prosecution started with EDF, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

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