Yeremia Chihana, the evaluator of former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s deceased estate, has filed a defence against a lawsuit by Peter Mutharika, arguing the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president has no political or any reputation to protect.
Peter, DPP’s 2014 presidential candidate, sued Chihana for allegedly damaging his reputation through a letter he wrote to the DPP leader, allegedly leaked to the media, regarding the former president’s estate.
But in his defence filed before the High Court in Blantyre this week, Chihana said Peter has no reputation at all regarding his political career, arguing the complainant is held in low esteem as a politician and his career is already disparaged in terms of leadership integrity.
Reads the defence in part: “The plaintiff [Peter] even though a professor of law and Member of Parliament [MP] still holds dual citizenship and effectively owes allegiance to a country, other than Malawi [being the United States of America].”
Chihana has denied leaking to the media the letter he wrote to Peter who argued it was supposed to be private correspondence.
Chihana said he wrote Peter in his capacity as valuer appointed by the Estate Duty Commissioners and that such correspondence under a statutory instrument can never be private in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
According to a statement of claim filed by Peter, on June 25 2013, Chihana wrote him as brother to the former president, asking him to provide details of bank accounts that were held in Bingu’s name with Peter as a co-signatory, administrator or executor.
Through his lawyers, Peter responded on June 26 2013, denying knowledge of any bank accounts held jointly with Bingu, according to the claim.
Peter is claiming general damages for libel and legal costs.
Bingu’s wealth has recently been embroiled in controversy after an evaluation report by Chihana indicated that the former president had wealth totalling K61 billion (about $152m).
Government is claiming a K5 billion (about $12.5m) cut from the deceased estate, an amount the Mutharika family challenged.
But last week, both parties agreed at the High Court in Blantyre to negotiate before the matter returns to court for further directions.
On the other hand, the late Bingu’s widow, Callista, and her stepdaughters, Duwa and Tapiwa, also entered consent at the High Court in Zomba earlier to settle out of court their battle over the deceased estate.