A trial in the K2.4 billion Cashgate case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others has been stalled after one of the defence lawyers Gilbert Khonyongwa has withdrawn his service to four suspects.
Khonyongwa has been representing Sympathy Chisale in a case in which fugitive Limumba Karim alongside Mphwiyo and others are facing charges, including civil servants such as former Accountant General David Kandoje, Auzius Kazombo Mwale, Clemence Mmadzi and Roosevelt Ndovi. The list of suspects also includes contractors.
Others are George Banda, Michael Mphatso, Samuel Mzanda and convict Maxwell Namata who are facing charges of fraud, negligence by public office, money laundering, theft by public servant, theft by servant and conspiracy to defraud government funds amounting to K2 446 817 450.49.
Also charged is an expert in information technology (IT) Steve Likhunya Phiri . Others are Stafford Mpoola, Andrew Patrick Chilalika, Fatch Chungano, Cecilia Mervis Ng’ambi, Gerald Magaleta Phiri and Ndaona Satema.
On Monday, lawyer Powell Mkhutabasa who is reosresting Kajombo-Mwale, told High Court Judge Esmie Chombo that Khonyongwa had some challenges that makes it impossible for him to continue representing the four suspects in court.
The four dumped suspects are Mmadzi, Chungamo, Chilakika and Chisale.
Trial judge Chombo who earlier expressed desire to have a speedy trial had to adjourn the case and asked the suspects to find a new attorney to defend them.
The State has so far paraded 13 witnesses out of the expected 30 in the case in which Mphwiyo and 18 others were charged with conspiracy to defraud government, holding property belonging to government, theft, money laundering, fraudulently issuing 24 cheques worth K2.4 billion, abuse of public office and usage of proceeds of crime.
Mphwiyo’s shooting outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe in September 2013 led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill called Cashgate.
Former president Joyce Banda ordered a forensic audit which was undertaken by a British firm, RSM ( formerly Baker Tilly), covering the period between April and September 2013.
The audit established that about K24 billion was siphoned from the public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices of goods or services never rendered.
In May 2015, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciled between 2009 and December 31 2014.
However, the K577 billion figure was later revised downwards to K236 billion by another British forensic auditor.
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