The defence lawyers’ demand for extra documents from the State yesterday forced the High Court in Lilongwe to adjourn earlier than planned in a K2.4 billion Cashgate case that former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others are answering.
The hearing was expected to continue up to Friday this week and thereafter continue from February 6 to February 10.
Just after the first state witness, Leonard Kalonga, had finished his testimony that has taken three days, Judge Esmie Chombo, asked if the defence lawyers were ready to start cross-examining Kalonga on Wednesday or Thursday.
But lawyers for the first accused, Mphwiyo, Mvalo and Company, said they could not proceed to cross-examine Kalonga in the absence of some documents that they had already asked for but were not provided.
The demand for extra documents also arose on Monday and Chombo ordered the defence lawyers to make fresh applications, specifying the kind of documents needed and their relevance to the case but, according to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale, no lawyer had done so by yesterday.
Mphwiyo’s lawyers want Treasury funding authority book for the period from July 2013 to September 30 2013, Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) funding uploading records and minutes from the Reserve Bank of Malawi meeting of September 9 2013, which they now say they cannot cross-examine Kalonga without.
“At this juncture we cannot go on and cross-examine the witness without these documents. Looking at the serious allegations that the witness has made regarding the first accused [Mphwiyo] and appreciating that fair trial is paramount in the judicial system, it is our prayer that the requested documents be made available if the first accused is to competently cross-examine the witness,” a lawyer from Mvalo and Co. said.
Then almost all defence lawyers started conferring which prompted Kachale to ask the court to give them time to consult and come up with one voice.
When the court reconvened, the lawyer for the second accused former accountant general, David Kandoje, who represented the defence lawyers, said they had agreed to come with position of sticking to the order of first accused cross-examining first to avoid the situation where the examination is disjointed.
“As the defence, we would have equally preferred to make good use of time but we do appreciate the right to fair trial as we know justice hurried is justice buried,” the lawyer said.
Kachale, who looked unhappy with court’s failure to continue the hearing up to Friday, said the defence lawyers should make their reasonable application by the close of business on Friday an assertion Chombo agreed with.
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