The Lilongwe High Court has adjourned to Wednesday 2 November 2016, a case involving former budget director in the ministry of finance, Paul Montfort Mphwiyo and 18 others who are answering charges in the K2.4billion Cashgate trial, when they shall be expected to take plea.
The High Court operated from an improvised courtroom in the Lilongwe City Council Chamber following an earlier concern that the courtrooms at the court complex in Lilongwe did not have enough space to comfortably accommodate the accused persons, their lawyers and well-wishers.
The case which came for plea and directions on Tuesday saw the accused persons failing to take plea as the defence counsel asked for more time to thoroughly go through the new charge sheet which they say it was only served before them in Monday.
Leading defence attorney, Titus Mvalo who together with Shadreck Mhango are representing first accused person Paul Mphwiyo, asked for more time before the suspects take plea as they were yet to read the new charge sheet and consult with their clients.
“My lady, fair trial is a constitutional right, our clients are yet to be consulted on this new charge sheet, therefore our plea is that the matter be adjourned to a later date so that we closely study the charge sheet and consult with out clients before they take plea,” Mvalo told the court.
Mvalo also asked the state through the court to provide detailed list of witnesses it intends to call in the court to testify.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Mary Kachale while agreeing to the fact that the charge sheet was served to the defences late , told the court she expect the defence team to have it by now go through it and appreciate that there’s nothing new except the removal of one count of Abuse of Office on all civil servants.
Kachale question how long it might take for the learned experience colleagues to read a charge sheet for them to know that they are the same arguing it can’t take more than 3 hours.
On the list of witnesses, Kachale said “we conferred with defence counsel that we have listed our witnesses but for the security of our witnesses we can’t give full details, we will be only disclosing next witness to appear on next court session not all at once.”
In her ruling, presiding judge, Justice Esmie Chombo adjourned the matter to Wednesday 2 November in the morning where the acccused are expected to take plea and then the courtroom shall give directions as to when the full trial shall start.
Kachale also told the court the missing of two suspects Sympathy Chisale who is the 13th accused person and the 15th accused person Limumba Karim who didn’t show up in the court for no reason.
She said as a state they keenly follow on who attend court proceedings and that if the two don’t show up in the next hearing (tomorrow) they might be tempted to apply to court for bail revocation as one bail conditions for the suspects is for them to be available during trial.
Kachale informed the court that three accused person namely Sympathy Chisale, Andrew Chilalika and Fatch Chungano through their counsels have admitted to some facts but not indicated their guilty plea.
According to Kachale when she spoke to Nyasa Times soon after adjournment, the three in writing has admitted to have been approached by cashgate convict, Leonard Karonga and that they were given cheques in their names which they cashed before they handover the money to Karonga but they say they were not suspecting any foul.
“In essence, they [suspects] have admitted they had been approached by Kalonga. They also admit they had no services rendered to government, they also admit they were paid government money and they cashed the money,” she said.
Technicality in law , they would need to take a guilty plea to accept the charges, according to lawyers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :