Three out of 18 people who are answering K2.4 billion Cashgate-related charges together with former budget director, Paul Mpwiyo, have accepted the facts on the charge sheet whereas defence counsel for one suspect has already communicated to the State that his client will enter guilty plea.
Mphwiyo, alongside other civil servants including former accountant general, David Kandoje, is answering several charges such as money laundering, theft by public servant and conspiring to defraud government funds amounting to about K2.4 billion.
Andrews Chilalika, Fatchi Chungano and Sympathy Chisale have all admitted that the former director of tourism, Leonard Kalonga, approached them to use their businesses, they had no contracts with government and that government cheques were deposited into their bank accounts and the money was withdrawn.
However, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mary Kachale, the three are not admitting that the money that was deposited into their bank accounts was stolen or was the proceeds of the crime.
“In law, what we are saying is that they are admitting to the action but not the mental state. What they are saying is, even though they received the cheques, they thought everything was legitimate and that is valid to do in admitting to the facts,” Kachale said.
Tuesday was set for the suspects to take plea and for the court to provide the case direct ions but the defence counsels said their clients could not take plea as the State had served them with the amended charge sheet late.
The charge sheet had to be amended as counsel(s) for one unnamed suspect communicated with the State on Friday that his client would plead guilty and the State has dropped one of the charges, abuse of office which all civil servants were answering.
The defence received the amended charge sheet on Monday and the lead defence counsel for the day, Titus Mvalo, said the defence lawyers needed more time to consult their clients before hearing starts.
The defence counsels also faulted the State for not furnishing them with the court ruling on the removal of the abuse of office charge despite the State receiving the same in September saying in the interest of fair trial for their clients, frequent updates are needed.
“The honourable DPP has conceded that the charge sheet was only submitted yesterday and is some cases today. My lady, this is a criminal offence where the liberty of the accused is at stake. That calls for a close scrutiny of the charge sheet and consultation with the accused. We, therefore, think that time be allowed for the members of the bar, here, to have a look at the charge sheet and have time with their clients before responding to the charge sheet. Therefore, we would like to ask for adjournment,’ Mvalo said.
After a 20-minute adjournment, in which the court told the defence counsels to discuss the way forward among themselves, Judge Esmie Chombo adjourned the case to today to set down directions and other pertinent issues in the case and allow the suspect who is ready to plead guilty to enter plea.
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