Cashgate: Sithole acquittal ‘likely’ with Lutepo claims

One of the suspects in the Cashgate trial, Victor Sithole, is likely going to be acquitted in a case he has been charged with being found in possession of unexplained large amounts of money, a law expert has observed.

Sithole answer charges in connection with large amounts of money including K112 million, $31 800 and R122 400 in hard cash which was found at his house in September last year leading to revelations of theft of government money now dubbed Cashgate.

Nyasa Times sought the service of a barrister at law to give an expert legal opinion to the development of a businessman and Cashgate suspect Oswald Lutepo who has penned the Attorney General claiming he was threatened and told to make false claims in the “Cashgate” allegations, the biggest financial scandal in the history of the small southern African country.

Sithole: Likely to go free
Sithole: Likely to go free

“The total effect is that now the defence counsel in Sithole’s case will ask court to recall Lutepo. Sithole is most likely to be acquitted,” reads a legal opinion submitted by the lawyer.

Apparently, newly appointed Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale  defended Sithole in the case and argued that the State had failed to prove its case because it could not establish ownership of the money, specifically the K112 million (US$272 506.1).

Kaphale’s arguments followed the prosecution’s case that Lutepo had denied claiming the local currency found in Sithole’s possession, arguing lawyers Raphael Kasambara and Wapona Kita forced him to do so.

However, the two lawyers denied forcing the businessman to sign court documents claiming K112 million.

In his letter, which was also addressed to Western embassies, Lutepo claimed he was threatened and told to “implicate” former justice minister Ralph Kasambara in the shooting of budget director and corruption whistle-blower Paul Mphwiyo last year, the incident which sparked “Cashgate”.

In the expert legal opinion, it was noted that the Mphwiyo and money laundering cases in which Kasambara is involved will have to be re-examined as Lutepo is a key witness.

Lutepo was arrested by police on Sunday after sending his scathing letter to Attorney General.

“His arrest by Police is admission that either he lied in his statements or that he is a much discredited witness that is likely to turn hostile in court which means that it is as not summoning him to testify at all,” noted the law expert.

“Further, the arrest works to Lutepo’s advantage should the Attorney General press on with inquiry into professional conduct of those lawyers implicated by Lutepo that they were forcing him to sign statements under duress. It might be seen as them pressing a panic button to exculpate themselves from Lutepo’s allegations.

“This will force Attorney General to ask the police and DPP to account for a different treatment to Chalunda another principal witness in Mphwiyo’s case who has made two different statements. Yet he has not been arrested; and his affidavit statement is one that Lutepo alleges was used to force him to implicate Kasambara,” reads the expert legal opinion Nyasa Times sought.

Justine Dzonzi, a law expert and executive director of Justice Link said  Lutepo’s letter “could be evidence that he lied in court under oath.”

He called for “reasonable degree of caution” on Lutepo’s claims.

Lutepo was arrested in November last year for money laundering after he allegedly pocketed $6 million (4.4 million euros) from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.

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