Lutepo ‘tried and convicted’ by media over Malawi cashgate – Lawyer

Lawyer Jai Banda for  main suspect in the Capital Hill cash-gate scandal Oswald Lutepo, has told High Court in Zomba that   the social media had treated him in a grossly unfair way .

The court sitting presided over by Judge Godfrey Mwase on Tuesday afternoon heard bail application submissions from the defense counsel and also the response from the State.

However, Lutepo was not present in court but first to file the submission was his lawyer Jai Banda who presented to the court statements that could warrant his client a grant of bail.

Banda said his client learnt of his being wanted by the police whilst on his business errands outside the country.

Lutepos lawyer Jai Banda speaking to pressmen after court

“Through the social media, my client made intentions clear that he will return home once he finishes his business to answer the allegations in order for the Malawi nation to hear his side of the story. He could have still been outside the country if he wished but had to respect the law by coming back to Malawi,” he told the court.

The money laundering law expert argued that there are people outside the country who are not yet extradited to answer murder charges but his client returned on his volition.

“This shows that the accused is ready to attend trial and cannot abscond bail conditions. He is a family man with five children with lots of responsibilities such as a number of business interests having over 100 employees in the country and it would be unwise for him to abandon all this,” added Banda.

He also told the court that his client would not tamper with evidence, witnesses or obstruct court of justice arguing suspects on murder charges as well as those in the cash-gate scandal have actually been released on bail.

In his lengthy submission, Banda said would like the status quo to remain the same in the interest of justice.

“So much has been said in the media and it shows to me that my client has already been tried and convicted. But the accused is just a mere suspect and should be presumed innocent. By keeping him at the Zomba Maximum Central Prison can as well be prescribed as pre-trial but bail is a Constitutional right and at the same time it can also be denied in the interest of justice so required,” Banda told the jam-packed courtroom.

He then registered concern that his client suffers from asthma and hypertension and it was not good for his continued remand at prison.

In response, the State represented by Dziko Malunda objected to the bail application of the defense counsel.

“The bail applicant left the country when the cash-gate scandal was already discovered and it would have been proper for him to immediately postpone his business trip the moment he learnt that he was wanted by the police. The State has questions as to what business the accused was undertaking outside the country in the wake of being mentioned in the cash-gate scandal,” he argued.

He said the money involved is too huge and surpasses all other cases obtained through a transaction series of well-calculated fraudulent syndicate.

“In addition, we have learnt that the accused is suffering from hypertension and asthma but there are no supporting documents tendered here to back their argument. The cash-gate scandal has affected negatively this country where donors have also withheld their aid until the mess is corrected. This has caused a public outrage out there which if released on bail; the accused will be in great danger,” summed up Malunda in his submission to the court.

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