Cement-gate Case Pushed to March 29

The accused leaving the court The accused leaving the court

The High Court in Lilongwe has adjourned to March 29th the multi-billion Kwacha cement-gate case involving four people who allegedly used former President Peter Mutharika’s tax-free status to import at least 60 bags of cement.

The accused persons, owner of Prestige Imports and Exports, Muhamad Shafee Chunara, former President Peter Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale, former State House Residences Director Peter Mukhito, and Malawi Revenue Authority Deputy Commissioner-General Roza Mbilizi are being accused of using Mutharika’s status to import 60 bags of cement pegged at about 5-billion-kwacha, duty-free.

However, the four, failed to take plea on Monday as some defense lawyers told the court that they were yet to be served with disclosures and others were only served the documents a few days to the day.

Lawyer representing first accused person Chunara, Manuel Theu asked for an adjournment of plea taking and directions to at least 6 days later.

“During our meeting with the State, we have agreed to ask for an adjournment for the accused persons to take plea and directions to pave way for the issues to be resolved," said Theu.

Another lawyer Shadreck Mhango, representing the third accused person Mukhitho told the court a maximum of 14 days would be required for the State to rectify the issues and also the defence to respond.

He indicated, some accused persons were served with the documents late, while others were not yet served.

Lead State lawyer, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni clarified that the anomaly originated from the point where disclosures were served to one lawyer Gilbert Khonyongwa on assumption, he was representing other accused persons.

At the magistrate’s court, before the matter was committed to the High Court, Khonyongwa sat in for fellow lawyers to represent other accused persons hence the confusion.

Judge Redson Kapindu adjourned the matter to 28 March but the State indicated it would not be available on the day, hence shifting it to 29 March. The adjournment according to Kapindu was to pave way for proper disclosures between the State and defense.

Before the case adjournment, DPP Kayuni informed the court that one lawyer each from Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), and Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) will be joining the State legal team.

He clarified outside the court that this was a strategy of coordinated law enforcement.

Said Kayuni, “this case touches on tax fraud, abuse of office and money laundering hence the MRA comes in because of tax fraud, ACB for abuse of office and FIA for money laundering.”

Senior Resident Magistrate Shireen Chirwa committed the matter to the High Court for trial in February 2021 having considered its complexity.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 15/02/2022

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