High Court Judge Redson Kapindu on Thursday adjourned the case in which Cashgate convict Osward Lutepo is awaiting sentencing for conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering of K4.2 billion during the former People’s Party (PP) administration.
The court was supposed to be moved by the state with an application to confiscate his properties before sentencing, but the state decided to defer the application to a later date not less than 12 months from yesterday as it awaited a thorough investigation of the convict’s properties.
The state, through Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mary Kachale, told the court that government faced serious challenges in determining the value of Lutepo’s properties that were declared in court for confiscation.
“When Osward Lutepo declared his properties, I will give the example of Wolgate Industries, he gave the value of K1.4 billion but when government-appointed evaluators went to evaluate the property according to their expertise, right now the value of the property is around K300 million,” said Kachale.
She further said the land on which the industry is was declared to be worth K17 million but government evaluators found the land to be worth in excess of K17.5 million.
The DPP then told the court that government has deployed financial investigators to trace Lutepo’s properties which have been transferred to third parties, adding that the process may take long to conclude, hence the need to go ahead with hearing submissions of sentencing the convict who already pleaded guilty.
She said failure to hear the submissions would be deemed as delaying conclusion of the case to sentence the convict.
Kachale said the state was afraid of facing a situation similar to the one experienced in another Cashgate convict Zinyemba Soko’s case.
Soko was given a stiff punishment but the court barred the state from confiscating his properties, arguing that the convict would suffer twice by losing properties and serving a long jail term at the same time.
Apparently, in another Cashgate convict Mary Senzani’s case, the convict forfeited her properties to the state and was given a three-year jail term that ends next year.
Although both parties agreed that Section 48 of Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act of 2006 provides that the confiscation of properties should be made not latter than 12 months of conviction, the state and defence went on to differ on the wording ‘after conviction not sentencing’.
Defence counsel Osward Mtupila said framers of the statute had in mind that sentencing should be done after confiscation of properties.
“Considering Section 31 of the same said Act, it should not be in the court rationale to punish the convict twice if sentencing will be done before pronouncing certification order. My client will lose the properties and suffer the harsh penalty,” Mtupila told the court.
He said his client has cooperated and was ready to compensate the stolen properties, arguing sentencing him now would be unfair. Mtupila lamented that his client was facing difficulties to obtain documents for the case because of his incarceration in prison.
However, the DPP hit back, saying confiscation of properties was meant to take back properties obtained illegally from the state and it was a different matter from restitution and sentencing.
The Judge then adjourned the case to Monday for ruling on the preliminary objection before he gives a determination on the case.
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