Still no plea for Odillo, Kufuwa: Cashgate case adjourned over Kauwa Banda’s absence

High Court in Lilongwe on Tuesday adjourned a Cashgate case involving former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) commander Henry Odillo, his then deputy Lieutenant General Clement Kafuwa (retired)  and others to another date.

Odillo and wife out die Lilongwe High Court
Odillo and wife out die Lilongwe High Court
Odillo leaves court
Odillo leaves court

Odillio, Kafuwa , Alexander Kauwa Banda who is the third accused person, Nelson Kauwa Banda, Ganizan Kuchombo and David Kandoje face seven counts of corruption, negligence and money laundering-related charges over alleged illegal payments amounting to close to K2 billion made to a military supplier.

The six failed to take a plea after the state through its leading Special Cashgate prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu  applied to the court for severance of the third accused person Alexander Kauwa Banda the owner of Thuso Group of Companies who resides in South Africa to have him charged separately since he is not honouring court summons to be in the dock.

Banda is one of the accused persons in the case and the court documents cite Odillo as the first accused, his then deputy Lieutenant General Clement Kafuwa (retired) as second accused, Thuso Group proprietor as third, Banda’s brother Nelson Kauwa Banda as fourth, and Ganizani Sionga Kuchombo and former Accountant General David Kandoje as fifth and sixth accused persons.

According to Nyasulu, Kauwa Banda’s failure to honour court’s dates has led to three time adjournment as he failed to appear before the court from 4th April,  27 May and 1st July 2016 though the message was being sent through his lawyer Ian Malera.

Nyasulu then asked the court to remove him from the charge sheet as he have to be charged separately in South Africa or when he comse in Malawi and let the other five take the plea so that the case proceed as they are not sure when Alexander Kauwa Banda will be in the country.

According to Nyasulu, Kauwa Banda has been in South Africa where he runs his business since 2008 and is married there apart from that he holds a South African passport which automatically made him a South African citizen as such it’s hard to make extradiction process.

But leading defence counsel for the accused persons Titus Mvalo senior counsel  said it was too early to conclude that the third accused person will never fulfill his promises to appear in court and that like any other accused he deserve to be granted a last chance salon to come and appear in court.

Senior Counsel Mvalo also argued that the state have not shown to the court that it was desirable to try the third accused person alone with his colleagues as such the judge must not grant the severance which the state had applied to the court.

Another defence lawyer, Emmanuel Theu also agreed with Mvalo saying if the court granted the severance it means the charge sheet of all accused persons has to be changed as the current ones reflect cases together with the third accused person Alexander Kauwa Banda.

In his rulling, Justice Dr Redson Kapindu said it was premature for the defence lawyer (Theu) to speak on charges being ammended as the issue at hand was about severance.

Kapindu also agreed with the defence lawyers that the third accused person be given another chance to appear in court when the court meet and that if the accused make himself available to the court the issue of severance shall not be relevant anymore.

But he said  if the accused doesn’t appear again the court shall proceed to make a rulling if there’s need to apply severance and to charge him on his own.

The court have also varied bail conditions for the accused persons that they must report to police now once in three months except for Odillo who said he is more comfortable to continue reporting to the Anti Corruption Bureau who are the ones who arrested him than reporting to the police.

The matter has since adjourned toa  date to be fixed by the court .

According to the charge sheet filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the prosecution centres around payments allegedly made by the military, between March and September 2013, to Alexander Banda of Thuso Group amounting to ZAR 30 000 000 (K1.4 billion) and K929 810 000.

ACB claims that the accused conspired to defraud the State through the payments, which were allegedly re-routed to the accused persons.

The seven counts are conspiring to make illegal payments contrary to Section 23 (B); making improper payments contrary to Section 23 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act; use of public office for advantage contrary to Section 25 B (i) of the Corrupt Practices Act; influencing the use of public office for advantage contrary to Section 25B of the Corrupt Practices Act; dealing in contract contrary to Section 25 c (i) and (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act; and  money laundering contrary to section 35 (i)  of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act and another separate money laundering account.

Former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, although not arrested in connection with the case,is alleged as one of the beneficiaries on the charge sheet.

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