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Saturday, April 20, 2024

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    The High Court of Malawi Financial Crimes Division in Lilongwe, yesterday, the 2nd of April 2024, ruled that it is premature for the defence in Vice President Saulos Chilima’s corruption case to request some of the disclosures from the State.

    Reading ‘an hour and a half’ long judgement, Judge Redson Kapindu said that, on the face of it, given the elements of the offence at hand, the information requested did not seem to qualify as a fact in issue in terms of Section 171(1) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Code (CPEC).

    However, Kapindu is of the view that if such information will be deemed relevant in the case, in the interest of fair trial a decision will be made on whether to tender the ‘sensitive’ information or terminate the case altogether.

    “After looking at the minutes of the Defence Council, outrightly, the court wishes to mention that it formed a clear view that the same were not of such a nature to be used in court proceedings as evidence.

    “But if the court will form a view that the information sought is relevant for the defence in light of proof of certain trial facts during the course of the trial, and that a fair trial for the defendant will not be possible in the absence of access to such information, then the decision will ultimately fall on the State on whether to proceed and disclose such information, notwithstanding the court’s finding that it is of a highly sensitive security nature as to enjoy public interest immunity or to terminate the proceedings in the interest of national security,” said Kapindu.

    We have established that the sought disclosures include minutes of the Defence Council Meeting held on October 16 2020 authorizing the procurement of armored personnel carriers (APCs) and a memorandum of March 2021 from the MDF to President Lazarus Chakwera seeking authorization to procure APCs from Malachite FZE, a company linked to Sattar, using single sourcing.

    It is worth noting that the court has directed that the defendant, Attorney General and Lead Counsel for ACB will be allowed access to see the classified documents sorely to appreciate the courts observations that the information is highly sensitive. No one will be allowed to get a copy.

    Chilima was arrested on November 25th 2022 by ACB on allegations of accepting a reward of US$280,000 from a business tycoon Zuneth Sattar to assist latter’s company, Xaviar Limited, in securing a Food Ration Packs Contract worth $7.8 million from the Malawi government for the Malawi Police Service.

    The case has since been adjourned to May 3 2024.

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