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More charges in cement case

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By Wezzie Gausi

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has added 12 fresh charges to those accused of committing offences in the cement case, The Daily Times has learned.

DPP Steven Kayuni said the number of charges has increased from six to 18 after receiving another report of investigations from the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).

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The cement case involves Mohamed Shafee Chunara, alongside his father Ahmed Chunara, former State Residences director-general Peter Mukhito, former president Peter Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale and MRA deputy commissioner- general Roza Mbilizi.

They are being accused of playing a part in the importation of K5 billion worth of cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2020 using Mutharika’s Taxpayer Identification Number.

Speaking after court proceedings Monday, Kayuni said what the State has done is allowed under the law.

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He said, as long as the office has new facts regarding a case, the charge sheet can change.

“At first, there were six counts on the charge sheet because we only had reports from the Malawi Police Service. Now that MRA has concluded its investigations, we have decided to add the charges,” Kayuni said.

However, defence lawyer Manuel Theu accused the State of dragging the case.

He said the accused persons were appearing before the court for plea-taking, only to be ambushed with a new charge sheet.

“What the State is doing is not good. These are tactics they are using to delay the case. The accused persons have the right to a fair trial but, with what is happening, the whole process is compromised.

“It is not fair for the DPP to give the defence the new charge sheet at the court. This was supposed to be done earlier, before the meeting today. So, we asked the court to adjourn [the case] for the defence to have a clear look at the new charges,” Theu said.

Judge Redson Kapindu has since adjourned the case to June 20 2022 for plea-taking.

Some of the six counts that the accused persons were answering before the new counts were added are conspiracy to commit customs offences, smuggling, aiding and abetting smuggling, and uttering a false document.

Among the 12 counts added to the charge, the sheet includes uttering a false document and making a false document in which Chisale and Mukhito, with intent to defraud the government, are accused of fraudulently writing a document to Tom Malata, the MRA commissioner-general at the time, to facilitate the smuggling of 20,000 metric tonnes of cement purporting that the said letter was written under the instruction of former president Peter Mutharika in a bid to enjoy a duty-free status on importations by the president.

The Chunaras, trading as SC Investments, Prestige Imports and Melton Hardware, are accused of knowingly taking steps intending to fraudulently evade payment of Value Added Tax (VAT) by under-declaring sales and by not remitting value-added tax to MRA, thereby defrauding the government of revenue amounting to K1,275,244,864.89.

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