Businessman Ashok sues ACB Director General Chizuma for defamation

Businessman Ashok Kumar Streedharan, who is facing possible corruption charges has “personally” sued the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Martha Chizuma for alleged defamation following a leaked audio clip in which scanting accusations were levelled against him, judges and judiciary among others.

The audio clip went viral on social media a few weeks ago in which Chizuma alleged that there was an element of corruption when Ashok was released from custody on bail contrary to the matters before the Judge who heard the matter subsequently granting bail.

ACB Director Martha Chizuma sued personally.

Ashok was arrested alongside former Minister of Lands, Kezzie Msukwa, over alleged corruption charges in relation to some land issues in Lilongwe.

Askok made an application to the court requesting to join the judicial review case of Msukwa granted at Zomba High Court.

Legal experts said the Judge’s hands were tied and could not have ruled otherwise.

Court filings at the Lilongwe District Registry of the High Court Civil Case No. 62 of 2022, indicates that Ashok is demanding damages from Chizuma for allegedly putting his “name in bad light” in the leaked audio which he argues that “he found demeaning to his character”.

“By the said words in their natural and ordinary meaning the defendant meant and was understood to mean that the claimant is an extremely corrupt person; that the claimant corrupted a Judge to have him released from custody”.

Ashok goes further to gain sympathy from the justice system by adding to the charges that Chizuma’s statement in the audio puts Ashok as being “so corrupt that the whole justice will not help” and that Ashok “is a criminal who has committed an offence punishable with imprisonment”.

The ACB arrested Msukwa and Ashok in relation to alleged corruption investigation the Bureau is undertaking involving businessman Zunneth Sattar in collaboration with British National Crimes Agency (NCA).

Msukwa was dismissed as Cabinet Minister by President Lazarus Chakwera paving way for the investigation but while the public expected the President to do the same on Chizuma — for breaching her Oath of Office and confidentiality following her gross misconduct of leaking critical and sensitive information carelessly — he announced she was being retained.

His decision to maintain Chizuma was applauded by the public as well as the international partners as Chakwera had said he decided to keep her because she is “a person of great courage” in the fight against corruption.

The President reiterated that he appointed Chizuma because she has “the kind of courage needed to take on dangerous cartels of corruption that have milked our country dry for decades, including foreign ones that donate to us the crumbs leftover from the bread they steal from us”.

In the audio, Chizuma is heard saying she had knowledge of a bribe accepted by a specific judge two days prior to attending a hearing before that judge and the amount of money she believed was involved the suspect gave to the judge.

She also alleged that the justice system in Malawi will not do what is right in handling corruption cases unless it is forced.

She has failed to arrest the so called corrupt members of the judiciary but rather condoned corruption to deepen, a thing in itself is a crime.

While Chakwera took cognizance that the audio sparked public debate about whether or not “Chizuma breached her Oath of Office; compromised the credibility of the Bureau and the security of its investigations” and that she had “violated the same Corrupt Practices Act she was appointed to enforce”.

Chakwera also said whether or not Chizuma had defamed the judge of an independent court, her conduct or that of any public servant “is neither infallible nor beyond scrutiny nor above the law”.

“Now since the conduct of any ACB Director is regulated by law, there are several legal minds who have told me that the audio recording contains information justifying Ms. Chizuma’s removal as Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau on the grounds of misconduct in terms of Section 6B (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act, 2019.

“But upon consideration of multiple factors, I have determined that the best thing to do in this instance is to keep a watchful eye on her general conduct of the Bureau’s affairs in order to ensure that there are no other incidents of concern about her fitness for office going forward.

“As such, I have given her a stern warning about what the law demands and what I expect from her as the person I appointed to that office.”

Nyasa Times understand that lawyers fingered by Chizuma in the audio clip are preparing to launch their own civil claim for defamation.

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