Mulli pays Woodworth K18m to avoid company closure

The once mighty business magnate Leston Mulli swallowed his pride and paid a whopping K18 million to a Mulanje charity worker Mary Woodworth who asked the Commercial Court in Blantyre to wind up Mulli’s Chitakale Plantations Limited for failure to pay the debt.

High Court (Commercial Division) Judge Justice John Katsala was expected to wind up Chitakale Plantations Limited following a petition by Woodworth and her aunt Lisnet Gremu this morning when Woodworth’s lawyer Patrick Mpaka told him that the debt was settled at the eleventh hour.

Katsala, however, proceeded to give his judgment in the matter and said had Mulli failed to pay the money, he would have ordered that the company be wound up.

“I have just been informed this morning by the parties that the respondent (Chitakale Plantations Limited) company tendered full payment of the debt yesterday. In the circumstances, there is now no basis for making a winding up order which, if it were not for this recent development, I would have made,” said Katsala in his five page judgement.

Mulli: Squeezed

He said the debt emanates from a High Court judgment made by Justice Anaclet Chipeta in 2009 in a case where Mulli was claiming a piece of land which belongs to Woodworth and Gremu.

Justice Katsala said Chitakale Plantations painted a picture that the company is a robust commercially and is a going concern and that it had been professionally assessed to be worth K1.1 billion but wondered why it was failing to pay the K18, 158, 850.05 debt.

“I then ask myself the question, is this company really solvent? Are the financial statements really giving a true and fair view of the company’s financial position? If it is solvent, why is it failing to pay the debt? I have no doubt that the answer to the first question should be in the negative.”

“Looking at the evidence before me and the circumstances of this case, I find it imperative to say that this is a proper case where the company should be deemed to be unable to pay its debts. I do not see any justifiable reason for the failure to pay the debt except inability to do so,” said Justice Katsala.

He also ordered Mulli to pay for the costs of the action.

This means that Mulli is not yet finished in paying some millions of Kwacha to Woodworth who run an Orphanage in Mulanje called Friends of Mulanje Orphanage (FOMO) which looks after more than 5,000 Orphans in the district.

At the height of the trial for the piece of land Mulli lawyers described Gremu and Woodworth, a Malawian born British national, ‘persons of no financial substance’.

Woodworth said she was happy with the utcome of the case.

“I am very happy with the outcome f the case. We have waited for almost four years to conclude this case but what is important is that even poor people can also win cases. We were called all sorts of names during trial, that we don’t have money but look how the case has turned out today. I thank God for sparing our lives to witness this great victory,” said Woodworth.

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