Pregnancy saves Cashgate convict

High Court Judge Justice Charles Mkandawire has granted bail to one of the K201 million Cashgate convicts Tapiwa Ng’oma on the grounds that she is heavily pregnant and cannot stand prison life.

The bail gives Ng’oma temporary relief as she will not be in prison while awaiting sentencing following her conviction last Thursday.

Mkandawire: It was not believable

For the offence of money laundering, Ng’oma faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, for conspiracy to commit a felony she faces a maximum seven-year jail term while for theft she could earn a maximum five-year prison sentence.

On Thursday, Ng’oma and 10 others were convicted of conspiracy to defraud government, money laundering and theft of the K201 million which happened in 2011.

In a sworn statement by her lawyer, Innocent Kubwalo on her behalf as she was remanded to Maula Prison, asked for bail until sentencing and that she be released forthwith.

He said: “I swear that the applicant has been convicted by the court and consequently has had her bail revoked pending sentencing. The applicant is eight months pregnant and is due to give birth next month.

“Owing to her condition, the applicant has lately been experiencing difficulties in breathing and swollen legs as a result of which she has had to seek frequent medical attention. I produce a copy of the applicant’s health passport confirming the aforesaid problems.”

Kubwalo said it would be better if Ng’oma was released on bail pending sentencing as it would be risky to the health of the applicant and the unborn child if she were to remain in prison.

Other accused persons in the case are Chikondi Chimutu, Deausdedit Tenthani,Tendai Nayeja, Audney Kamitengeni, Conrad Nambala, Squire Chakwana and Wides Machika Mbuliro , who have been convicted of the theft of K18.8 million, K16.2 million, K27.1 million, K9.9 million, K38.4 million, K10.7 million and  K5.5 milion, respectively.

Ng’oma has been convicted of getting K9.1 million which she claimed was given to her by one of the convicts to sell him a car.

She, however, told the court that she returned the money after selling the car to her parents.

However, Justice Mkandawire said her explanation was not believable, especially because Ng’oma could not produce evidence to support her claim.

The High Court in Lilongwe convicted 10 people in connection with the theft and money laundering of K201 million in 2011 in what could be described as the genesis of the phenomenon known as Cashgate.

A couple, Cornelius and Yvonne Kaphantengo, used their company Nova Technology and General Dealing to siphon K201 million which the 10, including eight former civil servants, shared.

Judge Mkandawire described the actions of the 10 convicts as a systematic, well-organised and coordinated theft and laundering of money which did not belong to them.

The court found that the Kaphantengos, using their company, received five cheques totalling K201 million for a service not rendered to the government and proceeded to share it with the other convicts.

Convicting them on a charge of money laundering, Mkandawire said the Kaphantengos proceeded to issue cheques to Nambala who then shared the money among other accounts personnel in the then Ministry of Disability and Accountant General.

Reacting to the conviction, ACB director General Reyneck Matemba, who was the prosecutor since 2015, welcomed the development dedicating it to people who were not afraid to speak out about corruption and its ills on society.

He said unlike the 2013 cashgate, Kaphantengo and others would siphon the money and share it using cheques and bank accounts which made it easy to prove while the later cashgate, the transactions were mostly cash based.

The court is due to sentence the 10 people on a date set after the 14 days period for presenting submissions elapses.

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