Court acquits pharmacy technician for ‘selling’ Malawi govt drugs

The Blantyre Magistrates Court has acquitted Chisomo Chongonyowa (26), a pharmacy technician at Central Medical Stores (Blantyre) in drug theft charges due to lack of evidence.

Chongonyowa, who comes from Kwipulu Village in the area of Traditional Authority Chikowi in Zomba, was arrested in May together with Steven Mphombwe 32 of Kampala village, T/A Chikumbu, Mulanje on offences of ‘theft by public servant’ contrary to Section 283 of the Penal Code.

He was accused of diverting and selling cartons of assorted drugs to vendors. The drugs were meant for Blantyre District Health Office (DHO).

The Case

The two were accused of conniving to steal government drugs worth K1 million.

According to information presented in court, Blantyre police arrested the two on May 18 this year following a tip-off that a Malawi Government ambulance registration MG 598 AD carrying the drugs did not reach its intended destination and headed off to Nancholi to sell the said drugs to local people.

“The police traced the ambulance but it had already dispatched and delivered to one of the drug dealers at Limbe. Efforts by police were made that lead to the recovery of five (5) cartons of Amoxycline drugs weighing 12kgs each containing forty (40) containers each and arrested Steven Mphombwe who was found in possession of such drugs,” reads the police information presented in court.

The information further states that medical doctor at Blantyre district health office; Dr. Owen Malema disclosed to police that the drugs were supposed to be dispatched at Blantyre DHO but Pharmacy Technician; Chisomo Chongonyowa on his personal gains diverted the drugs to another destination with an aim to sell it.

Malema positively identified the drugs, which were recovered, to belong to Malawi Government and valued to MK1, 069,864.00. This led to the arrest of Chongonyowa and Steven Mphombwe (32), a vendor from Limbe, who was found in possession of cartons of Amoxyline suspected to have been bought from Chongonyowa.

The police paraded four witnesses which include police CID officers after Chongonyowa exercised his right to remain silent.

Court judgement

However, in his ruling on whether, Chongonyowa has a case to answer or not, Senior Residence Magistrate, Innocent Nebi acquitted the accused and dismissed the charges levelled against him on grounds that there was no evidence to connect the pharmacist to the crime.

Nebi noted that, despite Chongonyowa signed a release order for the drugs from Central Medical Stores; there was no proof that he had a hand in diverting the medical drugs for illegal sale.

The Magistrate said the State prosecution team had failed in its effort to bring some of the principle witnesses in the case like the driver of the said ambulance to testify on whether was operating under Chongonyowa’s directive to divert the said drugs to another destination and not Blantyre DHO.

“The State has failed in its entirety to prove a case against the accused. There is no evidence that connect the accused to the case, his involvement in the diversion of the drugs to another destination with an aim to sell it,” ruled the Magistrate Nebi

“Much as the case is critical one but it is up to the State to provide enough evidence to substantiate its case before the court determines whether the accused has a case to answer or not…I therefore dismiss the charges levelled against the accused and acquit him accordingly,” the Magistrate said in his ruling.

Meanwhile, it’s not known if the State will appeal against the court’s ruling, but it is still prosecuting Mphombwe on two counts of receiving stolen property and being found in possession of medical drugs without licence contrary to sections 328 and 329 of the Penal Code.

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