The High Court in Zomba has given a go-ahead to the State and Cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo to engage an independent assessor to re-evaluate part of the convict’s property which he intends to restitute before hearing of sentence submissions starts.
Lutepo, who was convicted on his own plea of guilty on charges of conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering K4.2 billion, wants to restitute his Woget Industries Limited, which the State had initially targeted for confiscation.
However, the property is a subject of controversy following huge discrepancies that have resulted from valuations conducted separately by the State and the defence.
While the defence is valuing Woget Industries at K1.427 billion (excluding the land on which it is planted), State valuers have put the property at K293 million.
On Monday, the court upheld the State’s application to sentence Lutepo before confiscation of his property and benefits obtained from the proceeds of money laundering and defrauding government between April and October 2013.
But when the court resumed hearing of the case on Friday, the defence requested judge Redson Kapindu to adjourn the case for at least 14 days in order to resolve the disparities on the actual value of the assets.
Lutepo’s lawyer Oswald Mtupila told the court they had agreed with the State to appoint an independent valuer for purposes of impartial opinion on the property’s value.
Mtupila said the defence would supply three names of recognised valuers to the State for consideration, out of which one would be appointed to re-evaluate the asset.
He said: “We are looking at a period of not less than 14 days for us to deal with the process of obtaining an independent valuer, as such we pray that the submissions for sentencing do take place after that process.”
On his part, deputy director of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Reyneck Matemba, who is, alongside the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale, representing the State, said it was in the interest of the State to resolve the discrepancies before sentence hearing starts.
Matemba also said the two parties agreed that the State would incur all costs of the re-evaluation exercise.
Judge Kapindu then adjourned the matter to August 31. However, he warned that he would not tolerate any further adjournment of the case before submissions on sentencing begin.
Earlier, Kachale told the court that the State had carefully considered Kapindu’s judgement made on Monday, August 3, to proceed with sentencing while pending application for confiscation order.
In his ruling, judge Kapindu also ordered the State to consider either applying for confiscation order alone or together with the pecuniary order as the two have different implications.
But Kachale advised the court on Friday that the State had decided to be at liberty to also consider pecuniary order should it be necessary after applying for confiscation order.
In an interview later, Matemba said apart from having Lutepo get punished, the State’s main interest is to recover the property that he stole from government.
“It will be a big disservice to the nation to see Lutepo go to prison and serve his sentence without us recovering anything. This is the very same reason why we have not contested the adjournment of the case so that we resolve this matter and have the actual value of the property,” he said.