By Tiyese Monjeza
The High Court in Zomba has sustained a decision of Chief Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotcha to acquit former minister of Agriculture George Chaponda in a case related to the purchase of maize from Zambia.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in 2018 charged Chaponda with perjury, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and illegal possession of foreign currency before Chiotcha ruled that the politician had no case to answer in relation to all the three counts.
Chiotcha said the state failed to provide enough evidence on the matter. But ACB presented six grounds for the appeal before High Court judge Redson Kapindu.
In his ruling Monday, Kapindu said there was no merit in the appeal by the ACB. The judge further said the grounds of appeal were not valid and lacked substantial evidence that the lower court erred in its judgement.
He also said the permit to hold foreign currency which ACB questioned to be suspicious was legally given to Chaponda by then Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe who is one of the authorised persons to issue such permits.
Chaponda’s lawyer, Tamando Chokhotho welcomed the ruling which he said was not surprising considering that ACB’s appeal was not properly filed.
“The fact is that my client was acquitted at a point where the court was to determine whether he had a case to answer or not and at that time he had not testified or called any defence witnesses. The fact that the acquittal was made at that point shows how deficient the evidence against Dr Chaponda was. From the word go, there was no merit in this appeal,” Chokhotho.
One of ACB’s lawyers, Anafi Likwanya, said the graft-busting body will accept the court’s verdict.
“As a legal institution, we respect courts’ judgements. In a case, you are always prepared for both outcomes, whether to win or to lose. We have learnt few lessons from this case to ensure we are conducting forensic investigations when handling cases of this nature,” Likwanya said.
After he the High Court’s judgement, Chaponda said the case had damaged his reputation as a politician.
He, however, said he was happy that he was finally a free man and that the case has made him stronger in his political career.
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