By: Happy Arnold Soko
The corruption case involving former President Bakili Muluzi and former assistant Lyness Whiskey who are being accused of misappropriating MK1.7 billion public funds has taken a new twist following the failure by the first state witness to prove that the money was reasonably acquired through corruption.
During a cross-examination on Thursday at the High Court in Blantyre, defence lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho ordered former Anti-Corruption Bureau Investigative Officer Victor Banda, who is the first state witness (PW1), to reasonably prove if Muluzi acquired the MK1.7 billion through corruption.
The defence lawyer defended his questions saying they were legal and factual.
In 2009, the former head of state was found in possession of MK1.7 billion suspected to have been acquired through corruption.
According to government charge sheet 1.7 (b), Muluzi is suspected to have acquired the money through his influence as president and from other unknown sources as indicated in the official document.
On 4th January 2000, Muluzi deposited MK 7 Million into his personal account from Ntaja Company and on 12th July 2001, Muluzi Liquidated MK 10 Million from Lloyds fixed account and was deposited to his personal account.
While in 4th March 1999, an amount of MK3 million was deposited into Muluzi’s account toward the supply of sugar to Kalalia Company.
Both the state witness and defence council agreed to deduct the three transactions from MK1.7 billion due to failure by the ACB to justify that the Mk20 million was acquired through corruption.
On 12 January 1999, Muluzi received MK12.9million from Comfort General Dealers without the details of business dealings.
Reacting to the matter, Banda said the bureau told the accused to make a clarification on the transaction within the next 48 hours but he refused to make an explanation.
Chokotho said it is not reasonable for the government to charge Muluzi for the money he attained through business transactions.
On 22nd and 26th march 1999, an amount of Mk8 million was deposited into Muluzi’s account from Chitsime Drilling Company owned by his wife Annie Muluzi.
The state witness said the transactions were made without any business dealings and it made the bureau conclude that the money was attained in a corrupt way.
But Chokotho added that there was no basis of corruption since Chitsime Drilling was a family Company.
Schedule 2(a) volume 4 further reveals that Muluzi received another Mk 3 million from FDX fund.
Speaking to The Malawi Star after the first cross-examination Muluzi’s Lawyer said interrogating the state witness was not intended to please Muluzi but to serve justice.
“What we are doing is cross-examination and sometimes when the witness is unfaithful we follow hypothetical procedures that we can apply in future questions. It’s unethical to comment much on the court case. By the end of the case, we will be able to tell what has transpired.
There are certain facts that will speak for themselves. We are talking of interest money and those that were moved from one account to the other, they should not be accounted to the Mk1.7billion. We will deal with the entire MK1.7 billion by the end of the court case.” explained Chokhotho.
However, one of the three State lawyers, Deputy Director of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Reyneck Matemba, said he is optimistic that Muluzi siphoned MK1.7 million from government coffers.
Muluzi, Whiskey and some United Democratic Front (UDF) faithfuls, first appeared in court in February 2009 accused of embezzling US$11 million donor money and was initially charged with 80 counts of allegedly siphoning aid cash into his personal account.
Meanwhile, PW1 and the defence lawyer have deducted MK43 million from the Mk1.7 billion after concluding that Muluzi acquired the money through his business dealings.