A high profile former president Bakili Muluzi K1.7 billion case took off steadily on Thursday with the prosecution parading its principal witness Victor Banda, former deputy director of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Defense lawyer Tamando Chokotho did not waste time during the cross examination but started to punch holes in the evidence given by Banda, forcing the principal witness to exercise his right not to respond to most of the questions.
Banda conceded that the state should reduce the figure K1.7 billion saying some of the money was erroneously added to the case.
He said the money was irrelevant to the case but this did not go down well with the prosecutor Reyneck Matemba who insisted the defense was using unorthodox means to squeeze evidence from the state witness.
Matemba, who is also deputy director at ACB also battled it out with the defense in order for the court to allow evidence that shows this is not the first time that Muluzi was accused in relation to public money , referring to a campaign tool for the then ruling Malawi Congress Party in the run up to the 1994. Muluzi won the elections.
During cross examination Chokhoto took task Banda to explain the basis on which ACB used to arrest and charge Muluzi on corruption when the evidence tendered in court does not indicate that the accused had acquired the money corruptly.
For example it was learnt that on one occasion Muluzi’s account received money amounting to MK 3 million after supplying sugar to Kalaria wholesalers.
This money was said to be part of the charge. Another evidence tendered in court was Muluzi received money from a company owned by his former wife, Annie.
On this Chokhoto asked the witness if it was unusual for a wife to deposit money in an account belonging to a husband.
He also pinned the witness to prove to the court if the ACB had any evidence that the money was meant to bribe Muluzi to which the witness only said that the ACB charged Muluzi of corruption because he chose to remain silent when he was interrogated by the anti graft body.
Banda explained to the court that the objective of its investigation was simply to establish the income of Muluzi and compare it against what he was supposed to have considering his official income during the period he was head of state.
But Chokhoto quizzed the witness further to explain to the court why the investigation by the ACB ignored Muluzi’s income through his personal businesses in Ntaja Trading and Distributors and Atupele Properties which according to the defence had a turnover of over 1bn per month.
“Mr Banda are you telling this court that the first accused was a pauper and could not have any money from other sources? Will it be wrong to say that your investigations were incomplete? Are you aware that by remaining silent during the interrogation the 1st accused was only exercising his constitutional right?” lawyer Chokhotho asked.
He repeatedly asked the witness to explain to court if the ACB had any other basis to conclude that the money appearing in Muluzi accounts was acquired corruptly apart from his choice remain silent.
It was also established during cross examination that the ACB did not establish the relationship between some of the companies said to have made payments to Muluzi’s account and himself which forced the defence to question the credibility of the investigations.
On several occasions the Witness in chief admitted that no further investigations were made to establish the link between the companies and Muluzi but was quick to say that that might have been handled by other investigators from the ACB.
At the height of cross examinations presiding judge Maclean Kamwambe had to advise the witness to answer questions in a more straight forward manner because the defence’s questions were basically seeking yes or no answers.
Earlier, a witness from ministry of Information and Tourism said no money was taken away from its coffers by Muluzi as accounts show all money was intact.
The defense lawyers said some of the money used were bank transfers for his personal businesses and also interests.
The case, which resumes in the High Court on Friday, has started on a shaky note for the prosecution but Matemba said this is just a start of the case therefore conclusions must not be made.
However he conceded there are problems with witnesses and up to now he does not know where some of them are whilst other have died as well missing documents because the case has dragged on for 11 years.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :