The Malawi High Court has convicted a top business magnet for attempting to bribe five High Court Judges sitting as a constitutional court that were hearing a landmark May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition.
Minganjira’s bail has since been resolved and he has been remanded to Chichiri Maximum Security Prison awaiting sentence.
Presiding High Court Judge, justice Dorothy DeGabriele convicted business tycoon, Thom Mpinganjira for offering an added advantage in form of money to five High Court judges who were at the time hearing the historic 2019 presidential election in which MCP and UTM presidents, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, now state president and vice president respectively were asking the court to declare null and void the tippex-laden presidential election because they said were fraudulent.
In the case, Mpinganjira was charged with six counts under the Corrupt Practices Act including offering an advantage to a public officer, attempting to induce public officers to exercise functions of their offices corruptly and attempting to influence public officers by allegedly offering K100 million to High Court judge Mike Tembo, a member of the five-judge panel.
In delivering her judgment in Malawi’s Commercial City, Blantyre Friday, September 10, 2021, Justice DeGabriele ruled that the evidence before the court showed that the purpose of the parcel was to offer an advantage to the judges to deliver a ruling in favour of the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Throughout the hearing in the court proceedings, the billionaire business mogul, Mpinganjira denied that there was a parcel he wanted to offer to the judges as an inducement, but rather wanted to verify if indeed the judges were receiving parcels from other sectors.
However, the Judge dispelled that claim in its entirety as not true, saying the convict continued insistence and his pushy efforts on the matter is evident enough that his intention was to bribe the judges in order to influence the outcome of the case.
She ruled: “When he asked Justice Healy Potani (President Judge in the presidential election nullification petition) if indeed they were receiving parcels, the Judge said no.
“But then, the accused said wait, I have a parcel for you, I can bring it to you even in Lilongwe. This means, therefore, that the parcel did really exist.”
Justice DeGabriele further determined in her judgment that the convict was not only acting to sway the presidential election nullification petition ruling in favour of the ruling DPP and its presidential candidate but also that he was an interested party in the matter as he is a bona fide member of the party.
In mitigation, Mpinganjira’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho prayed to the court for mercy and leniency pleading for a suspended sentence.
“Dr. Mpinganjira is a good hard working man and in all his life, he has never been on the wrong side of the law; he is a first offender, he is old, he is 60 and he has health complications since he suffered from Covid-19.
“Furthermore, he is a responsible citizen and a family man who helps a number of less privileged people in the society, and he has a foundation and is a sponsor to one of the biggest teams in the country, Mighty Wanderers,” prayed to court Mpinganjira’s defence attorney in mitigation.
In response, State Prosecutor, Solicitor General Reyneck Matemba said the uprightness of the convict eroded the moment he embarked on the project because he should have known better of the consequences of his actions.
“His uprightness is eroded in the case he was answering. He is no longer an upright man. He could have known that when he voluntarily embarked on an unlawful journey. He wanted to defeat the course of justice in the most high profile case ever in this country and that must not be allowed.
“He wanted to use his wealth, power and influence to manipulate the justice system. This should not be tolerated. He should serve as a lesson to the rich, powerful and influential that their wealth, power and influence should not be used to manipulate the judicial system. We have the law to be respected,” counter-argued Matemba, adding that the State is yet to be served with his medical reports to determine his health status.
He prayed for a custodial sentence that “will reflect to all of us that we should not try to defeat the course of justice.”
Matemba told the court that Mpinganjira did not show remorse through out the case and that he has had an opportunity to do so when the defence asked for a plea bargain in a bid to get a lighter sentence in the matter saying he didn’t want to do it and that collapsed.
“He has had a chance to make things right but he didn’t. He wasted the Court’s time and ours. We lost a lot of resources for going into a full trial because he lacked remorse,” said Matemba.
Matemba prayed to court to impose a stiffer custodial sentence and not to consider a suspended sentence on the matter because this will send a strong message to the public that the law must be respected and justice must never be defeated.
“Under the law, cases such as this attract a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment and therefore we are asking your Ladyship to impose a stiffer punishment that is in tandem with the seriousness of the case to deter other from defeating the course of justice,” said Matemba.
Matemba also quashed Mpinganjira’s mitigation fact that he has health problems saying there is no evidence to prove it as the convict has not furnished the state or the court with documentary evidence on the same.
The Solicitor General, Matemba in response to a mitigating factor that the convicted business captain sponsors one of the country’s football team, Might Wanderers he said:
“On the point that the convict sponsors one of the biggest football clubs in the country, let me say that I have seen hordes of supporters of Mighty Wanderers within the court precincts of the court and I want to say that I don’t fear them,” said Matemba.
Mpinganjira’s lawyer, Patrice Nkhono Nkhono at one point accused Solicitor General, Reyneck Matemba of being unnecessarily emotional.
At that point, Matemba raised on point of objection saying that what Nkhono was saying should not be tolerated.
Justice DeGabrielle ordered Nkhono to withdraw his remarks.
The court has adjourned to a yet to be announced date for sentencing while Mpinganjira is incarcerated at Chichiri Prison.
During the trial Mpinganjira asked Judge DeGabriele to recuse herself from the case because of what he described as due to numerous “improprieties.”
However, DeGabriele refused to recuse herself from the matter describing the accusations levelled against her as baseless and ordered that the case would continue.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :