The High Court in Lilongwe has found guilty and convicted businessperson Caroline Savala for theft and money laundering charges in relation to the cashgate scandal.
Justice Fiona Mwale convicted Savala for siphoning about K84.9 million (US$206 068) of public money through alleged dubious contracts that never supplied anything to government.
The judge noted that the prosecution successfully proved case that Savala had, at different times in the bank account of her business Carmu Civil Engineering, two cheques amounting to K84 963 341.14 from the Ministry of Tourism when no construction contract was awarded to the accused.
It was noted that cheques amounting to K35.1 million and K49.7 million deposited and cleared through Carmu Civil Engineering, “there’s no evidence that [convict Savala] submitted vouchers or demanded payments.”
Savala, the court noted, “ended up with huge sums of money in her bank account for which there’s no contract on record.”
Justice Mwale while passing her hour-long judgement described the plot to steal public money, which Savala was accomplice to, as “sophisticated and too elaborate.”
Prosecutors Kamudoni Nyasulu, Enock Chibwana and Dziko Malunda argued that Savala did not just claim the cheques for payment of work she did not do, she deposited the money in her business account to co-mingle with legitimately obtained funds.
Savala, who pleaded not guilty to the two charges and exercised her right to remain silent since her arrest last year, was being represented by lawyers Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita, the former is also answering money laundering charges in the Cashgate trial.
During the judgement, lawyer Matthews Chizonde stood in as defence counsel, but it turned out that he had no valid legal licence as the judge was about to start procedures for mitigation and sentencing.
The drama started with Justice Mwale asking what appeared to be a mundane question to counsel Chizonde. She wanted to know if he had a valid practising licence and when the answer was negative Mwale fumed: “Please walk away from the courtroom.”
She is now the latest satistic of cashgate convicts who include Osward Lutepo, Victor Sithole, Lyson Dzinyemba Soko, Maxwell Namata and Triza Namathanga .
The court is yet to pass sentence on Savala who remains on bail. No date has been fixed yet for mitigation and sentencing, but the judge indicated that whoever is appointed as defence counsel has to discuss with the High Court Registrar on the new date.
And Lutepo who was convicted on his own plea of guilty on charges of conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering K4.2 billion ($9.3 million) between April and September 2013 will hear his senesce at the High Court in Zomba on July 30.
He pleaded guilty to the charges last month
Money laundering attracts a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and K2 million ($4 444) fine while conspiracy to defraud government attracts an imprisonment sentence of three years, according to Section 323 of the Penal Code.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :