Lutepo risks perjury charges, Malawi law experts argue

Malawi law experts have argued that businessman and one of the suspects in the Cashgate scandal, Oswald Lutepo, risks facing fresh charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for his  claims that he was coerced into writing false witness and caution statements with a view to implicate former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara.

In  a letter to Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale dated July 17 2014 and copied to the Chief Justice, the diplomatic community and Malawi Law Society, Lutepo has accused  Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Bruno Kalemba, former Malawi Justice Minister Fahad Assani and prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu of forcing him to write false witness and caution statements.

But legal experts who spoke to Nyasa Times have said the Cashgate suspect risks to be dragged to court for further charges.

Dzonzi:  Lutepo could be accused of lying under oath
Dzonzi: Lutepo could be accused of lying under oath
Lutepo:   Could face other charges
Lutepo: Could face other charges

Justine Dzonzi, a law expert and executive director of Justice Link said Lutepo risks facing “perjury and obstruction of justice” charges.

Dzonzi said Lutepo’s letter “could be evidence that he lied in court under oath.”

The law expert advised against throwing caution to the wind with Lutepo’s assertions.

He said if the claims are proved to be true, “they will be a lot more people who have committed offences.”

Dzonzi said there is “some good” in Lutepo’s coming forth with his claims but cautioned that there is also “veiled danger in it that it is possible this time Lutepo is lying.”

The lawyer called for “reasonable degree of caution” on Lutepo’s claims.

Another prominent lawyer Nyasa Times spoke to argued that Lutepo “will be such an unreliable witness and is a very unreliable witness.”

The lawyer, who asked not to be named, noted that Lutepo has made “serious allegations” against prosecutors Kalemba, Nyasulu and former justice minister Assani.

“The question is why the change of heart so many months after the initial statement, he didn’t have to make any statement at all,” the lawyer said.

He stressed Lutepo “had the option of refusing to make any statement.”

The law expert agreed with Dzonzi that Lutepo “indeed risk perjury because the statement was made under oath. And whatever he is going to say in testimony will be questionable. His testimony will not add value to either side.”

The lawyer pointed out that if Lutepo had made his claims whilst in court, “he would have been declared a hostile witness.”

In his letter to Attorney General, Lutepo wrote: “I am unable to appear in Court to testify as I would be committing perjury and will properly be roasted by the defence counsel. Now I do not want to commit a criminal offence let alone be made a proper fool again in a court of law and suffer subsequent humiliation and ostracisation that I previously went through after testifying in the [Victor] Sithole case.”

In its editorial comment on Saturday, Weekend Nation which also carried the story of the Lutepo’s letter as also carried by Nyasa Times earlier, pointed out that Lutepo’s alegations “need to be proved in court.”

“Without dwelling on the merits and demerits of Lutepo’s claims and wishes, we believe it is only the courts that have the duty of establishing the veracity and indeed the whole truth of matters of that nature,” reads the weekly’s editorial.

The paper appeals that the Cashgate truth “should never be a victim of this change or any possible machinations.”

It declares that “only the truth and justice will matter” in the Cashgate trial.

Lutepo faces theft and money laundering charges of K2.6 billion (about $6.8m) in the wake of the Capital Hill Cashgate scam which was widely exposed following the shooting of former budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.

But he was used as a State witness on the K1.2 billion theft and money laundering case against fellow suspect Victor Sithole.

When Sithole was arrested, Lutepo applied to the court to order that the local currency of the money found in Sithole’s possession be released to him, but later changed the tune, claiming he was forced to do so by lawyers Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita.

Kalemba said Lutepo was only brought to testify on claims that “he was forced to sign the documents asking for the release of money suspected to have been stolen.”

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