One of the early cashgate convicts, Maxwell Namata, Friday walked free after the Supreme Court of Appeal acquitted him, saying the state failed to present enough evidence that he stole public funds without a contract with government.
According to the Supreme Court, one of the key state witnesses, a Mr Chibwana, who was the chairperson of the Internal Procurement Committee at Ministry of Tourism, failed to prove that Cross Marketing did not have any contract with the ministry.
Cross Marketing was a company owned by Namata.
“The state witness [Chibwana] only said he was not aware of a contract between Ministry of Tourism and Cross Marketing but not the appellant did not have the contract. He also said he could not tell if the cheque in question was coming from his ministry or not as it only had Malawi Government as the drawer,” Justice Lovemore Chikopa said in his ruling, flanked by fellow justices Anthony Kamanga, and Rezine Nzikamanda.
Namata was earlier convicted and sentenced by the High Court in February 2015 to consecutive custodial sentences of three years and five years for theft and money laundering respectively.
But the Supreme Court Friday found that the High Court convicted him wrongly.
“To prove theft, there must be lack of consent, deception or misappropriation of facts but in this case, the state didn’t prove lack of consent, deception or misappropriation of facts when it departed with the cheque,” the ruling read in part.
The three justices said the Money Laundering conviction was premised on the conviction of theft and after its conviction was quashed there was no proof that the money was proceeds of crime as said the Money Laundering Act.
Namata, an Information Technology expert and former civil servant, was sentenced after being found guilty of stealing about K24 million, together with a contractor Luke Kasamba, in the infamous 2013 Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture cashgate.
But through his lawyer, Michael Goba Chipeta, Namata appealed against Judge Annabel Mtalimanja’s arguing that it was based on unfounded evidence.
Last week, another cashgate convict, Ralph Kasambara, walked free after the Supreme Court of Appeal gave bail pending appeal for his conviction almost two years ago.
But his co-accused Pika Manondo and Macdonald Kumwembe were denied bail.
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