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Malawi Law Society bashes Anti- Corruption Bureau over Bakili Muluzi case

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The Malawi Law Society (MLS) is not amused by delays by the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) in concluding the K1.7 billion corruption case involving former president, Bakili Muluzi, and co-accused Lyness Whisky, and has since warned that the development “does not reflect well on the criminal justice system” in the country.

MLS has also questioned ACB’s handling of the case.

MLS President, John Suzi Banda, and Honorary Secretary, Khumbo Bonzoe Soko, have expressed the body’s displeasure in a statement made available to The Daily Times. It is dated August 10, 2016.

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“The Society would firstly want to has considerably delayed in its conclusion since it was commenced. This obviously does not reflect well on the criminal justice system in the country and all those who play a role in it, to wit, the Judiciary, the defence teams and the prosecution,” reads the statement in part.

Among other grounds, MLS cites the State’s apparent lack of zeal and ACB’s dilly-dallying in bringing the case to its logical conclusion.

It also says the case has faced a number of hiccups but fails short of describing them as ‘intentional’. It observes, for example, that the case once laid in limbo after a State prosecutor recused himself from it, developments that have dampened hopes for a quick conclusion.

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“Secondly, the Society would like to express its disappointment that of late, there has been no appreciable zeal on the part of the State to ensure that the criminal case is prosecuted to its logical conclusion. Indeed, at one point this led to the rather bizarre and unprecedented occurrence of the prosecution of the case being abandoned at the Bar after the lone State prosecutor in court that day had elected to recuse himself from the case,” MLS points out.

The lawyers’ body observes that it is premature for the ACB to start insinuating that it may be difficult to successfully convict the suspects.

MLS observes: “Recently, the Anti- Corruption Bureau has been quoted in the press as suggesting that it does not have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction against the accused persons in the aforementioned criminal case. It has, accordingly, been intimated that the case against the two accused persons might be discontinued.”

While observing that it is not in the interest of MLS to assert that there is enough evidence to prosecute the two accused persons in the criminal case, it observes, however, that “the legitimate interest of the public in Malawi is the competent and diligent prosecution of the case and that the integrity of the process is safeguarded by the relevant officers”.

The lawyers’ body, therefore, demands that the ACB should “either competently and diligently prosecute the matter or, if it is of the opinion that it cannot so competently and diligently prosecute the matter, immediately cease its conduct of the prosecution of this case so that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) may take over the general conduct of the proceedings”.

Section 99 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi gives the DPP powers to exercise such mandate.

“We would further recommend to the DPP to immediately appoint a special independent prosecutor in exercise of her powers under section 100 (1) of the Constitution as read with section 79 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code. The special independent prosecutor would, accordingly, proceed to evaluate the evidence that the State has in this case and to take such appropriate further steps as shall be informed by the outcome of the evaluation,” MLS says.

MLS also explicitly questions the independence of the ACB.

It says, if it is true that the bureau is reeling under the influence of external players, it would be incumbent upon it to inform Malawians of such development.

“The Society would like to repeat its recent position regarding the importance of the independence of the Bureau whose actions gravely concern us. It would appear to us that the Bureau’s operational independence is compromised. Its decisions whether to further prosecute the matter is no longer being guided by the cogency of the available evidence but some other extraneous matters that should ordinarily have no bearing on the case.

“If it, indeed, be the case that the Bureau is failing to prosecute the matter with requisite seriousness because of extraneous considerations, then it raises serious questions about the credibility of this constitutionally important institution. We call upon the Bureau to boldly explain itself to the people of Malawi why it is failing to prosecute such a high-profile matter with the seriousness and professionalism expected of such an institution. Criminal prosecutions are conducted on behalf of the people of Malawi and it is imperative that the Bureau should not take the public for granted. It should, in good faith, explain its actions and/or inactions clearly to the public,” MLS adds in the statement.

MLS warns that it may take further action if it is not satisfied with the way the case is being handled.

“The Society continues to be seized of this matter and will take such further steps in furtherance of its statutory objectives and the legitimate interests of the public as it considers appropriate,” MLS warns.

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