Malawi Judiciary has put its foot down tthat it is not ready to set up plea bargaining rules as the government has been discussing with some Cashgate suspects on the possibility of striking pre-trial bargains relating to various charges the suspects are facing on the looting of K20 billion from public coffers.
Several suspects are reported to have asked for pre-trial deals bordering on becoming State witnesses and returning the alleged stolen money.
One of the suspects, Oswald Lutepo, who is answering several charges relating to money laundering and theft, asked the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale to become a State witness after going public admitting wrong-doing.
Another suspect, Pika Manondo, is said to have held discussions with ACB officials on the possibility of becoming a State witness.
But the office of Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa disclosed this week it is not ready to establish the rules which were ready expected to guide the prosecuting authorities in deciding on the suspects proposed plea bargains.
“In the absence of the plea bargaining rules, we cannot use or even consider using them; the only option available at the moment is a guilty plea which can then be used as a mitigation point in sentencing”, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu is quoted by the Weekend Nation.
Although the country’s criminal procedures and evidence code makes provision for plea-bargains in section 252S,the Chief Justice is yet to set guidelines to regulate the actual bargaining.
And spokesperson for the Judiciary Mlenga Mvula said the Chief Justice’s office is not prepared
for the lengthy process of establishing the rules, although “it is looking into the matter with utmost urgency”.
Mvula is quoted by the Weekend Nation: “There’s need for a legal team to come together and start drafting the
rules. This will also involves research to be conducted in other countries where such rules are in place,hence it is a long process.
“But ( the office) is looking into the issue with utmost urgency…once the rules are in place,the Chief Justice may always advise the Ministry of Justice.”
Chancellor College law lecturer Dr. Mwiza Nkhata is on record warning that while the law allows pre-trial bargaining, justice cannot be fully served when accused persons only return the money they stole after striking deals.
“Despite the law allowing pre-trial bargaining, it’s also not automatic that every person who asks for a deal should be allowed. The gravity and severity of the crime determines [the action taken].
“The other issue is, the K20 million of 2010 is not the same as the K20 million of 2014…and government should also strive to get the other benefits of proceeds of crime and ensure that generally justice is done and not just accept that someone wants to return the money he [or she] is accused to have stolen,” said Nkhata.
Over K20 billion is said to have been stolen between April and September 2013 and about K92 billion was plundered from 2005 to 2012 in a public finance management scandal that angered donors and shocked a nation whose majority citizenry remain in abject poverty 50 years after attaining independence.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :