Barely nine days after keeping under wraps names of two suspects in the alleged judge bribery attempt in the presidential election nullification petition case, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday arrested business mogul Thom Mpinganjira.
In an interview last evening, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba, while still keeping a tight lid on the identity of the other suspect he described at a news conference in Lilongwe last week as “an officer working for one of the three arms of government”, said Mpinganjira will appear in court in Blantyre this morning for plea.
He said: “He will appear before the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court for formal charging tomorrow [Thursday]. His lawyers are likely to apply for bail. We’re finalising the charges.”
Matemba refused to disclose the exact charges levelled against Mpinganjira who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited and board chairperson of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).
In a telephone interview, Patrice Nkhono, one of the lawyers representing Mpinganjira, also declined to comment when asked about the charges their client faced and their strategy for the way forward.
He said: “We’re in the thick of things now. Allow us not to make a comment.”
During on Wednesday’s interview, Matemba, who previously said Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda telephoned him on November 28 2019 and lodged formal complaint from two of the five judges hearing the case about the attempted bribery, also declined to disclose Mpinganjira’s detention place.
The ACB boss could also not indicate when the other suspect would be arrested.
At about 9am on Wednesday, Mpinganjira walked a distance of about 35 metres on the pavements on Chilembwe Road and Hannover Street from his offices in Umoyo House to Able House where ACB offices in Blantyre are located next to Reserve Bank of Malawi.
He was later joined by Nkhono.
By 2pm, after news filtered in that one of the country’s top bankers was being questioned at the graft-busting body’s offices, people started gathering outside the premises waiting to see Mpinganjira, perhaps on his way out.
There was heavy presence of security around the ACB offices, with about six armed Military Police officers from Malawi Defence Force (MDF).
Mpinganjira, clad in a black business suit complemented by a white shirt and a maroon necktie, walked out of the ACB offices at about 4.32pm to a waiting double cabin pick-up. In the vehicle, he was sandwiched by two armed Military Police officers on the back seat enroute to Blantyre Police Station.
In the elections case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections—UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)—want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.
The five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court concluded hearing the matter on December 20 2019 and indicated that they would deliver their judgement within 45 days from that date.
The judges hearing the case are Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo. Meanwhile, High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba has indicated that judgement in the elections case would be delivered between January 27 and February 3 2019.