Trials of suspects arrested in connection to the stealing of over $250 millions of public funds from government coffers in what is known as Cashgate scandal formally commenced on Wednesday at Lilongwe High court but didn’t take time raising fears among Malawians that this would drag the progress of cases beyond elections time.
Among suspects appeared at Lilongwe High Court were Caroline Savala, Agnes Katengeza who are accused of theft and money laundering for receiving payment from government thorough their construction company for the services they did not provide and Leonard Kalonga who is accused of defrauding government by procuring six buses with a total value of about $1.3m, without government’s approval.
The presiding judge, Justice Esmie Chombo adjourned the case against Savala to give time for her new lawyer Wapona Kita to study the case following the re-arrest of her former lawyer Ralph Kasambara who is in police custody over allegation of money laundering.
Chombo has also adjourned the hearing of cases involving Kalonga and Katengeza due to what their lawyer Gilbert Khonyongwa says “other technical hitches.”
“There were a number of objections that were raised. One of them is that they were not served with disclosures, the other one was that Mr. Kalonga was not committed to the high court. I think the state is overwhelmed with all these cases, so there are those technical hitches but such things happen,” Khonyongwa told reporters at the court.
The court has also discontinued the case against a businessman Gordon Hamdan who was accused of theft because of lack of evidence.
Police uncovered the scandal in September in the course of their investigations into the shooting of then budget director Paul Mphwiyo for what is believed to be his attempt to curb corruption in government. Government has so far frozen over 33 bank accounts and seized property suspected to have been acquired using the stolen money.
The High court is yet to announce the date when it will proceed with the adjourned cases but cases involving former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara and the suspended ruling People’s Party’s official Oswald Lutepo over their respective charges of attempting to assassinate Mphwiyo and money laundering are expected to start on February 5.