The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) yesterday got the nod to add one more suspect in the K2.4 billion money laundering case in which former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo is among the accused.
The High Court in Lilongwe allowed DPP Mary Kachale to add Steve Likhunya Phiri to the case in which the suspects are answering several counts, including money laundering.
The 19 accused persons are expected to take plea when the case resumes on February 24 2016.
Mphwiyo is facing charges alongside 18 others, including civil servants such as former Accountant General David Kandoje, Auzius Kazombo Mwale, Clemence Mmadzi and Roosevelt Ndovi. The list of suspects also includes contractors.
Others are George Banda, Michael Mphatso, Samuel Mzanda and Maxwell Namata who are facing charges of fraud, negligence by public office, money laundering, theft by public servant, theft by servant and conspiracy to defraud government funds amounting to K2 446 817 450.49.
However, the DPP said investigations indicate that the 18 people could not have managed to breach the government financial system and siphon the K2.4 billion over a period of six months without the help of an expert in information technology (IT).
Said Kachale: “Our allegation, and this we shall prove, is that Steve Likhunya-Phiri was that background person who assisted in breaching and manipulation of the financial systems. This is contained in the statements of his two co-accused persons and we have witnesses who will prove this.”
But Likhunya-Phiri’s lawyer, Shadreck Mhango, told the court that his client was not aware of the contents of the affidavit and skeleton arguments in support of the application the DPP served on them at the court because he remained in custody at Maula Prison in Lilongwe.
Said Mhango: “I have had no time at all to take him through this application. So, our response to this joinder will merely be an academic exercise.”
Presiding judge Esme Chombo agreed with Mhango that in the interest of justice, his client needed to be appraised of the reasons for the joinder and adjourned briefly for Likhunya-Phiri to be brought to court.
When Likhunya-Phiri appeared before court and Mhango raised no objections to request that plea be deferred and the court hears his bail application, Chombo ruled that he should be added to the case.
Lead counsel for the defence, Meyer Chisanga, said with the new charge sheet, which includes Likhunya-Phiri as the seventh accused person, the lawyers needed to consult their clients before taking plea.
The judge has since ordered that the prosecution should serve disclosures on the defence until January end 2016. n