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Mpinganjira has case to answer

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The High Court sitting in Blantyre Thursday adjourned to May 11 2021 the case in which businessperson Thomson Mpinganjira has been found to have a case to answer for allegedly attempting to bribe judges.

When the court meets in exactly 26 days, it will offer direction as to what happens next.

Mpinganjira is answering the charge of offering an advantage and five other charges in the alternate.

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The charges are in connection with allegations that he attempted to influence a panel of five judges who, sitting as a Constitutional Court, heard the presidential election case as a constitutional matter. He is alleged to have attempted to influence them to rule in favour of former president Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission.

Judge Dorothy DeGabriele said, looking at the prosecution’s case, on the face of it, a case has been made out requiring Mpinganjira to enter a defence.

“At this point, the court did not use the standard of proof of beyond reasonable doubt. The court just looked at the prosecution evidence and, on the face of it, elements of offering an advantage have been shown,” she said.

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DeGabriele, however, said Mpinganjira had a right to defend himself or remain silent but the court will deliver its ruling whether he defends himself or not.

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lawyer Victor Chiwala hailed the ruling.

“We are happy with the ruling of the court. At this stage, what we are saying is that, in case the defence chooses to enter defence, then they should give all their disclosures in time,” he said.

Mpinganjira’s lawyer Patrice Nkhono said he needed time to consult his client on whether he would enter defence or choose to exercise his right to remain silent.

In the submissions at the stage of determining whether he had a case to answer or not, Mpinganjira submitted to the court that he had no case to answer.

His lawyer went further, cautioning the court to be independent and impartial considering the fact that it was Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda who complained to the ACB and that five judges testified against him.

But DeGabriele said courts in Malawi were impartial, such that the caution was simply aimed at undermining their independence.

But Nkhono said the defence did not intend to undermine the court by sending the caution.

“The court said it was not happy that we had to caution it to be impartial and independent. It said our intention was to undermine its impartiality and independence but, as I said inside the court, we did not intend to undermine the court,” he said.

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