Court to free Chikago, ACB wants him to testify against Muluzi

The High Court of Malawi sitting in Blantyre is set to let go former Malawian envoy to Japan Dr. John Chikago who is an accomplice of former head of state Bakili Muluzi in the corruption case.

The marathon trial, against the former career diplomat, started in 2006 however Chikago through his attorney Chancy Gondwe prayed to Justice Healey Potani to have him discharged as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has shown no interest to prosecute him.

Meanwhile, the court asked the prosecuting authority to submit its arguments regarding the request made by the defence team.

ACB agrees

And in a rather rare situation, lawyer representing ACB Clement Mwala made no serious objections to the request. He even stunned his opposite number when he told the court that he would have loved if the accused was acquitted instead of discharging him.

Chikago: Justice is not a commodity

“We already have an agreement with the accused and we have records where he agreed through a written statement to be state witness against Dr. Bakili Muluzi. As such our interest is to see him out of the case so that we could utilize him as a witness.

“My Lord, we would have preferred if my learned colleague had pleaded for acquittal of his client but since he has asked for a mere discharge he may have the discharge,” a soft speaking Mwala told the court.

No deal

However, taking his turn, Gondwe argued to Justice Potani that by asking for discharge  Chikago it means his client is not bound to any agreement that was previously made with the director of ACB.

Gondwe further added that if  Chikago were to nod to such an agreement then it would mean undermining the independence of the court as well as public confidence.

“My Lord, let me remind this court that since 2006 ACB has done nothing to prosecute my client, he was discharged on all three counts he was facing at that time; come 2009 he was rearrested and this time they charged him with one count….it is on this background that my client has refused to be state witness in Dr. Muluzi’s trial.

“It also pleases this court my Lord that striking a deal with an accused person so that he is set free to become witness not only is it illogical but also it defeats the whole purpose of having a functioning independent judicial system,” contented Gondwe.

At a certain point Justice Potani asked to be enlightened by the state on whether the agreement in question between the ACB and Chikago was illegal.  Mwala responded by referring to section 14 of the corrupt practices act which he said provides for penal sanctions to any person who does into agreement with the director of ACB to become a witness and later decides to change heart.

To be subpoenaed

The state attorney therefore disclosed that by virtue of being discharged does not stop him from becoming state witness, arguing “the reason why we’re not objecting to the prayer for Dr. Chikago to be discharged is that apart from the written statement we have, we can request him (Chikago) at any time to testify in the ongoing case against Dr. Muluzi by way of subpoenaing him, that’s the good thing about justice.”

Meanwhile, Justice Potani reserved his ruling on the matter to a date he said would be communicated once the judgment is ready.

Chikago is being accused of conniving with Muluzi to siphon millions of money belonging to Malawi government.

The two have always pleaded their innocence describing the charges as tramped up, politically motivated and day light witch hunt.

‘Trading justice’

Chikago was approached by ACB in May, 2008 to become a state witness to a case which was neither defined nor substantiated.

He was later asked to testify against Muluzi in exchange for freedom, a gesture he vehemently refused.

Head of ACB, Alex Nampota is on record saying Chikago who was arrested in 2006 for allegedly stealing K5 million and later discharged from his case due to lack of evidence was re-arrested and charged because he refused to be witness to implicate Muluzi.

The former diplomat stated that “justice is not a commodity to be traded by anybody. He said that he was a man of principle who has represented his country and applied the highest integrity in serving the nation.”

Chikago, who is credited for the popular One Village One Product (OVOP) initiative during the Muluzi led administration, won another legal battle with the Industrial Relations Court in the year 2008, when the court ordered Malawi government to pay him K4, 437, 000.00 in compensation for unfair and unlawful termination of employment.

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