Trial of the corruption case involving former Cabinet minister George Chaponda and Rashid Tayub, director of Transglobe Produce Limited, yesterday failed to proceed in earnest at the Zomba Magistrate’s Court following fresh submissions from both the State and the defence team.
The State was yesterday expected to continue parading its witnesses in the matter but the exercise was halted because of the new developments that cropped up.
First, State lawyers brought to the court an amended charge sheet for Chaponda, ex-minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, in which they added an extra charge of money laundering.
Furthermore, they applied to recall two State witnesses—former Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe and his former director of operations Feckson Kantonga—who had previously testified to reappear before the court.
On its part, the defence team for the second accused also filed a fresh application for a split trial between their client (Tayub) and Chaponda.
However, on the issue of amended charge sheet, Zomba chief resident magistrate (CRM) Paul Chiotcha dismissed the extra charge for Chaponda after he noted that it lacked sufficient particulars.
However, according to State lead counsel Macmillan Chakhala, despite striking it out on the charge sheet, the CRM told the State they were free to add the charge once all the necessary particulars were available.
Chaponda’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho said in an interview the defence raised a formal objection to the fresh charge sheet because it was evident that the State did not have evidence on the money laundering charge.
Chaponda is answering three charges of giving false information to ACB, influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency while Tayub is answering to the charge of persuading a public officer to misuse his position, but they both denied the charges.
But Chiotcha is today scheduled to make his ruling on whether the matter should be tried separately or not as well as whether the State should be allowed to recall Mulumbe and Kantonga to re-testify in the matter dubbed as maizegate.
In their arguments, Tayub’s lawyers said they believed it was in the best interest of their client and his businesses for the matter to be tried separately as that would necessitate the expedition of the case as Tayub had few witnesses as compared to Chaponda and if they were to be tried together proceedings would unnecessarily drag for him.
However, the State objected the application for split trial, arguing they were of the view that the facts making the case between the accused persons were connected.
“Our argument is that there is a nexus [connection] between the offence of attempt to obtain an advantage for the first accused and that of persuading a public officer for the second accused. So, separating the case is not possible as the evidence needs to be heard collectively,” said Chakhala in an interview later.
The matter was transferred to Zomba CRM after the High Court in Blantyre dismissed an application by the State to transfer the trial from Blantyre CRM court to the High Court.
The ex-minister and Tayub were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) last July on suspicion of corruption relating to procurement of the K26 billion maize from Zambia.n