Court favours MRA in Chihana tax evasion case

The High Court in Blantyre has finally thrown away an application for judicial review by businessman-cum-politician Yeremia Chihana in a case in which he was challenging his arrest for alleged tax evasion.

The ruling comes after the court initially snubbed an application by the public tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to set aside judicial review on the decision to arrest the politician.

Chihana (C) with Harry Mkandawire (L) and lawyer Wapona Kita during one of his court appearances

In his ruling dated October 31 2017, Judge Roland Mbvundula argued that upon examination of the grounds advanced by Chihana to challenge the decision to arrest him, the court failed to acknowledge an act of wrongful manner to warrant the quashing of the decision.

The judge argued that Chihana’s application lacked merit as such was dismissed with costs and the “interim reliefs granted by the court are set aside in their totality.”

“Upon this court’s examination and consideration of all the grounds advanced by the applicant for challenging the decision by the respondent to arrest, and potentially to prosecute him, this court fails to accept that the respondent acted in any wrongful manner so as to warrant the quashing, setting aside or otherwise condemnation of any of the respondent’s challenged decisions,” reads the ruling in part.

However, the court further said in a bid not to pre-empt any ensuing proceedings, it refrained from analysing the arguments raised by either side for or against whether Chihana may have committed any of the alleged acts of tax evasion as enumerated by MRA.

“Indeed doing so would be tantamount to delving into the merits of the case, which is outside the purview of judicial review. It suffices to observe that in the view of this court any reasonable investigative and prosecutorial authority could have proceeded as the respondent did,” reads the ruling.

In an interview yesterday, the politician said he was yet to see the ruling as such he could not competently comment on the matter “until I actually see the document and what the court has said.”

MRA, in conjunction with the Malawi Police Service (MPS), arrested Chihana, a renowned property valuer and entrepreneur, in June 2015 for being suspected of evading tax for his several companies amounting to about K1.3 billion.

Among the several charges were that Chihana, an opposition politician with the New Rainbow Coalition, imported two vehicles without paying duty, but he dismissed the charges arguing his arrest was politically motivated and applied for a judicial review.

Before his arrest, MRA seized computers and files in a six-hour raid of his YMW Property Investments Company offices in Lilongwe as part of their tax evasion probe.

Chihana came in the limelight when he valued the estate of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika to be worth K61 billion during the era of former President Joyce Banda. However, Mutharika’s family disputed the assessment as fabricated. n

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