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Defence grills witness in Karim’s K150 million case

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Defence lawyers Monday took to task State witness, Malawi Police Service (MPS) Finance Investigator Yotamu Banda, in the K150 million case where businessman Zameer Karim and Ecobank Malawi Head of Domestic Banking Victoria Chanza are answering charges of fraud, forgery and uttering a false document.

During cross-examination that lasted over three hours at the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court, lawyer for Karim, Alex Nampota, faulted Banda for conducting poor investigations into the matter, culminating in MPS officials concluding that Karim forged an Assignment of Proceeds Acknowledgment letter from MPS to Ecobank in August 2015.

Karim and Chanza were arrested on November 12 on allegations that the businessman, using his companies Oil and Protein Company Limited and Pioneer Investments, btained a K150 million loan from Ecobank using forged documents with a promise to pay back the loan from proceeds of the Police food rations deal but never did.

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Nampota, who referred to email and WhatsApp conversations between Karim, former MPS director of finance the late Innocent Botomani and former Police deputy inspector general Duncan Mwapasa said the case would not have reached this far had Banda and fellow investigators at the MPS done a thorough job in their investigations.

According to Nampota, Karim volunteered to give the investigators the information but Banda and his team allegedly said they were not interested in the messages, telling Karim, instead, to present the information in court.

“Had you paid attention to thorough details in your investigations, you would have established that the letter under question was originated by MPS itself,” Nampota said.

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Taking his turn, lawyer for Chanza, Tamando Chokhotho, asked Banda to tender evidence showing that his client took part in the authoring of the letter used for obtaining the loan.

Chokhotho also asked Banda whether he was conversant with loan approval processes in a bank and whether Chanza could single-handedly approve a loan for a client in the bank.

Banda said they arrested Chanza because the bank refused to give the police an original letter from MPS giving the bank the go-ahead for Karim to get a loan from Ecobank.

He said the law enforcers only managed to get a photocopy of the letter, which made them suspicious that the original letter never existed.

According to Banda, Karim and Chanza connived to defraud Ecobank of K150 million.

Hearing of the case is expected to continue in court tomorrow afternoon, when the State will re-examine Banda.

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