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Court rebuffs Norman Chisale on forfeiture case

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Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda

The High Court sitting in Blantyre Thursday dismissed with costs Norman Chisale’s application to stay his property forfeiture case pending conclusion of another criminal case, which he says is bordering on the same property.

Chisale said the requirement for him to explain the source of his property in civil forfeiture proceedings will undermine his right to remain silent, a right he decided to exercise in criminal proceedings involving the same property.

Judge Michael Tembo, hearing the application virtually, dismissed Chisale’s application but ordered that whatever Chisale says in the civil forfeiture case he is presiding over should not be used in the criminal proceedings Chisale wants to remain silent in.

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“By making this order, that evidence in these proceedings will not be used in the criminal proceedings, the court will protect his right to remain silent and, for that reason, his request to stay the proceedings is dismissed with costs to the claimants because this application is far off. The respondents are, therefore, required to respond to the forfeiture application within 21 days,” he said.

Tembo also dismissed Chisale’s application to refer the interpretation of the right to remain silent in relation to the requirement of respondents to explain their wealth to the Chief Justice for certification as a constitutional case, saying the effort is not worth it.

Both Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda and Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni objected to the application, saying staying the proceedings would pose a huge risk to the property in question.

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Kayuni said Chisale’s argument— that civil forfeiture proceedings can prejudice criminal proceedings bordering on the same subject matter— is stale and no longer part of common law.

He claimed that Chisale’s application to stay forfeiture proceedings is only aimed at delaying the proceedings, claiming that, so far, Chisale has only been bringing applications on technical issues.

He said there is no challenge on the substantial forfeiture application that is before the court.

Chakaka Nyirenda concurred with Kayuni, saying staying civil proceedings to pave the way for criminal proceedings is an archaic principle that is no longer applicable.

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