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State wants Cashgate suspect tried in absentia

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The State—through the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)—has asked the High Court in Lilongwe to allow the continued prosecution of the fugitive Cashgate suspect, businessman Limumba Karim, in the K2.4 billion case in his absence.

Karim is one of the 18 people answering charges relating to money laundering in 2013 alongside former budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

He is among businesspersons who are suspected to have defrauded the government of billions of kwacha using their companies’ bank accounts where public funds were deposited using cheques from the then Ministry of Tourism and Culture without any service delivery.

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But he has not been appearing in court for the case since last year as he is no longer in the country and reportedly sought refuge in South Africa.

In January this year the court issued a warrant of arrest for Karim after the State asked it to do so.

In an interview just after the adjournment of the case on Monday, DPP Mary Kachale said the State is expected to raise the matter of Karim when the court sits today.

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Kachale said with the struggles that the State is facing in securing the extradition of the fugitive murder suspect Misozi Chanthunya from South Africa, the State cannot afford to let Karim’s fall into a similar situation.

“We have made an application to the court to continue with the case against Limumba Karim and if the court finds him guilty, he should be convicted and sentenced even in his absence. There is a provision in Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code which gives powers to the court to do so and when we meet in court we will raise the issue,” Kachale said.

She said the State is ready to parade all witnesses against Karim.

Lawyer Wapota Kita discharged himself from the case in January this year after attempts to get in touch with his then client, Karim, proved futile.

The case was adjourned to today due to some commitments by Judge Esmie Chombo.

The last three defence lawyers are expected to finalise cross-examining the principal state witness, Leonard Kalonga.

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