Sithole’s key Cashgate trial starts: Lutepo is State witness

The Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday started hearing the case against 27-year-old Victor Sithole who is accused of being found in possession of large amounts of money said which prosecutor say is a breakthrough to the theft of government resources christened as Cashgate.

Sithole was arrested in September last year when he was found with K112 million in two separate vehicles, $ 31 900  and 121 000 South African rand in his house in Area 47 in Lilongwe, but he failed to explain how he came to be in possession of the money.

When he appeared in the dock, Sithole pleaded not guilty to all three counts of possession of property suspected to have been stolen, illegal possession of foreign currency and money laundering.

Sithole at court

Sithole at court

However, businessperson Oswald Lutepo, the main suspect in the K1.2 billion (US$2 948 403) theft and money laundering case, will be paraded as a State witness in the case.

But first to testify on Wednesday was head of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the Malawi Police Service (MPS), Moses Makwinja.

He told the court that about K80 million (US$196 560) of the local currency in K500 banknotes was found in an unregistered Toyota Fortuner parked in the yard of Sithole’s Area 47 residence while K32 million (US$78 624) was found in a Toyota Vitz registration MH 5766.

It was later discovered that the Toyota Fortuner was stolen and Makwinja said Sithole initially said the car belonged to another suspsect Maxwell Namata. Nyasa Times reported last week that  a businessperson, Mike Msungama, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment over that stolen car.

Sithole’s lawyer, Kalekeni Kaphale, during cross-examination, querried Makwinja why they did not question his clinet’s wife, arguing anyone in Sithole’s home could have owned the money .

Lutepo was scheduled to testify against Sithole on Thursday.

But when Sithole was arrested in September last year, Lutepo applied to the court to order that the local currency of the money found in Sithole’s possession amounting to K112 million be released to him to enable him to fulfill a contract with Agrifeeds, part of which was subcontracted to Sithole.

Lutepo himself, a former governing People’s Party official, is also answering charges of theft and money laundering involving K1.2 billion when his company, International Procurement Company, had reportedly not rendered any services to government.

 

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