There was a commotion at Karonga district police station on Wednesday morning when 26 drivers arrested on suspicion of smuggling maize to neighbouring Zambia and Tanzania refused to appear before the court.
Police said they believe there is a syndicate to externalise the country’s maize and the traders are using Karonga and Chitipa to smuggle maize.
Drivers and owners of the intercepted trucks were expected to appear before the court on Wednesday, according to the police and court officials.
However, the driver s”refused” to go to court, saying they have not committed any offense.
“We have all legal documents and we wonder why the police are on our neck. On top that we were not trying to export the said maize,” argued the drivers in a separate interview.
According to them, no one will appear before the court.
However, Karonga police deputy spokesperson George Mlewa while confirming that the suspects failed to appear before the court in the morning said “they are still recording their statements, thus why the failed to appear before the court.”
When asked how many drivers and owners of the trucks have been arrested, Mlewa said no one has been arrested so far as the police are continuing with investigation.
Mlewa told Nyasa Times that the group will appear before the court soon after taking their statements.
Meanwhile, Chitipa resident magistrate Toxious Masoamphambe is on April 10 expected to rule on whether seven out of 17 truck drivers have a case to answer or not in a landmark case of maize smuggling.
This comes just a day after President Peter Mutharika issued an executive order to deploy Malawi Defence Force soldiers in all borders scattered across the country, including in Chitipa and Karonga.
About seven truck drivers appeared in the court on Wednesday where they all pleaded not guilty.
Two of them have legal representation.
Masoamphambe however ordered that they should continue be remanded at Chitipa police station until they appear again in the court on April 10.
He also ordered that the 17 trucks, full with the 350 metric tonnes of maize, continue being parked as Chitipa police station as they will be exhibited in court as evidence against the suspects.
Gladwell Simwaka, police spokesperson for the northern region said the others could not be brought to appear before the court for plea because they refused to have a caution statement taken which means they are yet to be charged with any offence.
Police prosecutor for the north Christopher Katani is representing the state.
Mutharika says the soldiers would deal with the smuggling of maize and tobacco.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :