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Embassy fraud suspects on bail

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Lilongwe Magistrates Court yesterday released on bail Doreen Kapanga and Fletcher Chowe, who until recently, were working as Malawi’s deputy ambassador and first secretary respectively at Malawi’s Embassy in Ethiopia.

Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa granted them bail despite a plea by the state to continue keeping them in custody.

Central Region Police prosecutor, Levison Mangani, said the issue of bail should be handled at the High Court where trial will take place. But Chinangwa ruled against him.

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“I grant the accused persons bail. They should each pay K1 million bail bond, with two reliable sureties. They should surrender their travel documents to police. They should also not dispose of any of their property as one of the charges against them is money laundering,” Chinangwa said.

The two were arrested on Tuesday in relation to theft of government’s K293 million at the Embassy. Chief Resident Magistrate Chinangwa, told them reasons of their arrest.

Kapanga has been charged with the offences of theft by servant and money laundering, while Chowe has been charged with the offences of fraudulent accounting, theft by public servant and money laundering.

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But Mangani told the court that the charges may change.

“These are just holding charges. We brought the accused person to court to comply with the 48-hour rule [that suspects should be taken to court within 48 hours after being arrested]. The two will be committed to the High Court, where trial will take place. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will take charge,” Mangani said.

Chowe’s lawyer, Khumbo Soko, then asked the court to grant the two bail. The plea was supported by Kapanga’s lawyer Gilbert Khonyongwa.

But Mangani insisted that since the issue will be heard at the High Court, the issue if bail should be handled there.

“Committal is yet to be done. The state must justify reasons for keeping the accused persons in custody. These [people should be released on bail. We are dealing with the issue of liberty here,” Soko argued.

Khonyongwa added: “This court has full jurisdiction to consider the issue of bail.”

It was after analysing the facts that Chinangwa granted Kapanga and Chowe bail.

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