High Court Judge Redson Kapindu yesterday upheld the consensus between lawyers representing Vice-President Saulos Chilima and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) that the State should make available all disclosures to the defence within two weeks.
In the morning, Kapindu adjourned the proceedings for 30 minutes to give the two parties time to mutually discuss the status of the disclosures requested by the defence, which are not contested by the State but were not yet served to the defence.
This followed a disagreement between the two parties on why the State was not forthcoming with certain disclosures which it had earlier indicated that were available.
“What we want are full disclosures for us to proceed. We have noted that out of the disclosures which we requested for, a number of them have not been provided so we want them to serve us with all disclosures,” said one of the defence lawyers Kalekeni Kaphale.
Kaphale argued that full disclosures were needed and that the ACB lead investigator needs to confirm the disclosures with an oath as per criminal case procedures to accord his client a fair trial.
But one of the sState lawyers Chrispine Khunga said the prosecution team needed time to go back to the institutions which are supposed to provide some documents for the disclosures which they will make available in the given period.
“We made requests a long time ago to the institutions such as the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) for the documents which the defence is looking for, so we just have to go back and remind them to release the documents to us,” he said.
On the evidence contained in the data which the State obtained from the United Kingdom’s National Crimes Agency (NCA), Khunga said the defence is free to go and access it, but said it cannot be shared to the defence.
Making his ruling on the arguments from both sides later in the afternoon, Kapindu agreed with the defence that in the absence of full disclosures, there cannot be a reflection of fair trial for the accused person; hence, ruled that the State should prepare all evidence and serve the defence.
“The purpose of serving the defence with all evidence is to give them enough time to look at them and prepare their defence properly. This is the direction that criminal proceedings take and the sole purpose for this privilege is to administer a fair trial,” he said.
Before adjourning the case to September 25 2023, Kapindu appreciated both parties for their arguments, saying they were helpful for the court decision.
The High Court Judge also ordered that the State should furnish the defence with the ACB’s clearance report of the current Inspector General (IG) of police Merlyne Yoramu, which it submitted to Parliament before she was confirmed.
The ACB arrested Chilima in November 2022 and charged him with six counts of corruption for allegedly receiving a $280 000 bribe from businessperson Zuneth Sattar to secure government contracts.
However, in the previous hearing, the ACB changed the particulars of the charge to “demanding and receiving unspecified amounts of money for himself to influence a public officer to give his approval to the Malawi Police Service to enter into a contract with Xaviar Limited for the supply of food ration”