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TESTIFIED—Judge Tembo

Revelations of what transpired during the time retired Financial Holdings Limited Chief Executive Officer Thomson Mpinganjira allegedly attempted to bribe five judges who presided over the May 2019 presidential election case came out in the open Friday when the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) paraded its first witness.

ACB paraded Judge Michael Tembo before Judge Dorothy De Gabriel at the High Court in Blantyre.

Mpinganjira is suspected to have tried to bribe the five judges by giving them money to influence their decision in favour of the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose candidate was former president Peter Mutharika.

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Tembo brought printed WhatsApp text messages and voice recordings between the defendant [Mpinganjira] and himself which were played and tendered in court as evidence.

Tembo, who comfortably stood in the witness dock, narrated how he first communicated with Mpinganjira, who asked him if the money he had been sending through lawyer Frank Mbeta and an undisclosed person had been reaching them.

Tembo said he told Mpinganjira that they had never received the money in question and warned him that he was duped by the people who by the time of the conversation [between Tembo and Mpingnjira] had collected money close to K100 million claiming to have been given to the judges.

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The court further heard that Mpinganjira called Tembo later after the first chat, asking for advice on how he could proceed so that the money reaches the judges and asked for the number of the chairperson of the judges, Justice Healy Potani who is said to have picked up his phone once and never picked again.

Encountering difficulties in meeting Potani, Tembo told the court that Mpinganjira contacted him again asking him if he could take a parcel to Potani which he revealed was a bag containing money, and the judge refused.

Tembo further said he believed that apart from Mbeta, the other person who was collecting money from Mpinganjira is renowned politician Brown Mpinganjira because he was the one who was supposed to take the money to one of the judges for them to share.

Tembo concluded by narrating to the court that he had never collected money from Mpinganjira to influence the judgment of the case.

Judge Dorothy DeGabriel has since adjourned the case to November 12 this year for continued trial.

Speaking after the hearing, ACB Director Reyneck Matemba expressed happiness with the pace of the case.

“We are impressed with the witness, I will not comment much because the case in still going on but what he has told the court is what we also established during our investigations,” Matemba said.

The court also heard about the progress of plea bargaining, to which the defence asked for more time.

Judge DeGabriel said if the defence was to be granted more time, Mpinganjira would be sent back to prison but he has since had his bail restituted because the defence opted for the case to continue.

Lawyer representing Mpinganjra, Patrice Nkhono, said it is sad that some people think they want to delay the case and that others think plea bargaining means that the person is guilty.

“People think that because Dr. Mpinganjira is suggesting plea bargaining, he is therefore guilty and that erodes the constitutional right of the person to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in the court of law and Dr. Mpinganjira has not been proven guilty of any offence,” Nkhono said.

ACB is expected to parade seven more witnesses, including justices Potani, Redson Kapindu, Ivy Kamanga, Judge Dingiswayo Madise and three investigators from ACB.

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