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Chaponda’s corruption case in Maizegate drags over missing document: Court adjourns

The Zomba acting Chief Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotcha on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the corruption-related case christened as ‘Maizegate’  against former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda to February 21 after defence lawyers claim some key documents which will help their case not in the bundle served to them.

Chaponda: His lawyers and State prosecutors tussled over ‘missing’ documents

Chaponda is answering three charges out of the four which include giving false information to Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while his co-accused Rashid Tayub of Transglobe Produce Export is answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position. They both pleaded not guilty.

The defence was expected to cross examine the third state witness Robert Mbuzi Mkandawire who works as an investigator at the ACB.

However, Chaponda’s defence lawyer Tamando Chokhotho argued that the defence needed some more time before cross examining the witness because the State served them some documents late on Tuesday.

Chokhotho also observed that the documents which they were served with refer to other documents which the prosecution did not serve them.

Among the documents was a letter dated October 22 2016 which Chaponda allegedly wrote to former Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe.

Chokhotho filed an application requesting the State to produce the “new” documents which the prosecution witness referred to in his statement.

“We realised the State were referring to other documents  which we were not served with and we have never seen or heard about them yet three witnesses have so far testified,” said Chokhotho.

But Macmillan Chakhala, lead State counsel, disputed Chokhotho’s claim.

Chakhala, who is principal prosecution officer for ACB, said there were no fresh documents,

Magistrate Chiotcha therefore directed that the State should serve the defence the said documents before February 16.

The case will run for two days, from February 21 to 22.

The former Cabinet minister alongside Tayub, a Transglobe Produce Limited director and Grace Mijiga-Mhango, chairperson of the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA), were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on suspicion of corruption relating to procurement of government maize from Zambia.

Recently, Tayub’s lawyer asked the court to have his matter heard separately but the State opposed to the application.

Chaponda is answering three charges out of the four which include giving false information to ACB, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while Tayub is answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position. They both pleaded not guilty.

He was fired from Cabinet on February 22 2017 following public pressure after the ACB instituted investigations on allegations of his involvement in the K26 billion maize import deal from Zambia, popularly known as maizegate.

Chaponda is currently vice president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the Southern Region.

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