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Thom Mpinganjira pleads not guilty

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Reyneck Matemba

Businessman Thom Mpinganjira Wednesday pleaded not guilty to all the counts he is answering in relation to bribing judges who heard the election petition case as a constitutional referral.

The businessman, who is currently on bail, is answering six counts including those of offering an advantage to a public officer, in the alternative, an attempt to induce Justices of the High Court to exercise their functions corruptly and attempting to induce a public officer to abuse his office.

His lawyers applied for an early adjournment, saying they were challenging the process through which the Chief Resident Magistrates’ Court in Blantyre transferred the case to the High Court and that one of them Tamando Chokhotho had another matter in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

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The state being represented by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), however, objected to the application saying the application is unreasonable and that Mpinganjira has three lawyers.

“Mr Mpinganjira has three lawyers and the today the case only came for plea which does not require all the three lawyers to be present and the judge agreed with us.

“The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code is clear that we in the prosecution, the ACB and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, decide where to try cases. We don’t have to give reasons whatever. The bureau decided to try the case in the High Court and the DPP agreed. The question should be why do they want the case to go to the Magistrates’ Court? We will find out on August 19,” ACB Director- General Reyneck Matemba said.

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One of Mpinganjira’s lawyers, Fostino Mayere, declined to comment on the proceedings so far.

The initial application for judicial review on the Magistrate Court’s decision to commit the case to the High Court was already thrown out last week by Justice Jack N’riva.

The defence then appealed the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the application which was heard yesterday afternoon.

Mpinganjira was arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe the judges who heard the presidential elections case so that they could rule in favour of former President Peter Mutharika.

Mutharika lost both the election case and the ordered fresh presidential election which was held on June 23 after the Supreme Court of Appeal had upheld the judgement of the Constitutional Court which nullified Mutharika’s 2019 re-election on the basis of “widespread and systematic irregularities”, among others.

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