Lutepo to remain in custody until Dec 6: Bail withheld in Malawi cash-gate case

The High Court in the Eastern district of Zomba on Thursday made a determination that ruling  People’s Party official and businessperson Oswald Lutepo remains in custody for 21 days pending investigations into alleged theft and laundering of K2.6 billion (US$650 000) in the cash-gate before it can determine bail for the accused.

Lutepo who handed himself to the police on 6th November 2013 is being charged with theft contrary to Section 278 of the Penal Code and money laundering contrary to Section 35 (1)(c) of the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorist Act.

Justice Zione Ntaba made the ruling on behalf of Judge Godfrey Mwase in a case which has drawn a lot of attention from the people.

Said Ntaba: “Having gone through affidavits from both the defense counsel as well as the State, I therefore make a determination that the suspect (Lutepo) remains in custody for a period of 21 days for thorough investigations on his properties to take place, and the court will meet again on December 6.”

Lutepo's lawyer Jai Banda discussing with his client's relatives after bail was withheld.-Photo Nyasa Times

Lutepo’s lawyer Jai Banda discussing with his client’s relatives after bail was withheld.-Photo Nyasa Times

One of Lutepo’s relatives Elson Mwase expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“To say the truth 21 days in custody after all the comprehensive arguments made during bail application is just too much for my relative. This is to say Oswald [Lutepo] is already being tried by the court. I am really disappointed,” he said.

Lutepo’s lawyer Jai Banda told Nyasa Times after the ruling that he will consult his client on the way forward.

He however ruled out the possibility of appealing against the ruling.

“We cannot appeal because from the way I see it, the period would be short since the procedures to be followed will take more than the 21 days,” he said.

Lutepo is one of the suspected kingpins in the cash-gate scandal that has hit Capital Hill where billions of money has been plundered.

He is currently remanded at Zomba Maximum Prison. However, Lutepos’s lawyer, Banda urged that his client’s life is in danger if he stays in prison for long.

State defense team, comprising Pilirani Bangula and Dziko Malunda asked  the court not to grant bail arguing that Lutepo’s case involves theft and laundering of about K2.6 billion which is a substantial sum of money warranting a sentence of 10 years in prison.

But Jai Banda argued that Lutepo handed himself to police, therefore, there was no reason to doubt that he can abscond case hearing.

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