Senior Resident Magistrate Akiya Mwanyongo Friday set September 20 to 24 as the days for trial in the K10.8 billion Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons tax-evasion case after the suspects took plea.
At least eight suspects, who include the company’s directors, were present in court and pleaded not guilty to 15 charges levelled against them in the matter.
Lead counsel representing the accused, John Gift Mwakhwawa, sought for more time before commencement of trial, arguing that he has just taken over leading the case and needs time.
“There were changes in the lead counsel and as such, we would ask for an extension of time before trial so that I familiarise myself with the case. You know sometimes clients find you in the middle of other cases and so you cannot make other clients suffer because of a new client,” he said.
But Mwanyongo maintained that the trial should commence and that all communications will be made formally to the court.
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steve Kayuni said the State is ready to parade its witnesses in the matter.
“There was an issue that came up that the accused person cannot take plea because the defence needed to raise an objection. However, the court agreed with us that they had enough time to go through the documents.
“As we have seen that the suspects have pleaded not guilty and the Senior Magistrate has set a date for commencement of trial, we are ready to parade our 10 witnesses,” he said.
In that case, MRA established three cases of alleged tax evasion during the investigations.
The first case related to under-declaration of sales. Mapeto officials were accused of selling their products but not fully declaring the sales to MRA which, according the Authority, had a direct and negative impact on the revenues they were remitting to MRA with regards to VAT [value-added tax] as well as income tax.
MRA also claimed that Mapeto was technically smuggling goods which are finished products into the country and declaring them as raw materials.
The investigations also established that Mapeto DWS was employing expatriates and paying them appropriately, but was declaring less to MRA in terms of income tax or pay as you earn (Paye).
Among others, the accused are charged with conspiracy to commit custom offences which is contrary 132 of the Customs and Exercise Act of the laws of Malawi, aiding and abetting smuggling, which is contrary to 133c of the Customs and Exercise Act.