The High Court of Malawi is now set to deliver its judgement in a nine-year-old K2.4 billion Cashgate case involving former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 17 others.
The progress follows a ruling by the court yesterday dismissing Mphwiyo’s application to stay proceedings. If granted, the court would have restarted the proceedings.
Mphwiyo and the 17 others are accused of defrauding the Malawi Government K2.4 billion in the infamous 2013 Cashgate case. They were all found with a case to answer.
In the appeal, the applicant had argued that High Court Judge Ruth Chinangwa, who is now presiding over the case, was new, as such, needed to restart hearing the proceedings.
But in her ruling, the judge said granting the stay would have been an injustice to all parties as some accused persons have since died while some entered plea bargain.
Chinangwa added that witness memories would also have faltered as the alleged crime took place years ago.
She said: “This matter commenced nine years ago and the accused’s right to speedy trial has been jeopardised. Obviously, one would argue that the quest for speed should not result in injustice.
“As observed above, there has been no injustice caused on the applicant during the course of the trial that would call for a stay of proceedings as all the applicant is saying in his application is that the change of judges caused an injustice in the trial.”
Chinangwa added that the injustice has not been spelt out and so too what the applicant has suffered.
In an interview yesterday, principal State advocate Mathews Gamadzi said the State is satisfied with the ruling, arguing that the litigation process has to come to an end as it is costly to both parties.
“Our submission was that the application had no merit and we are happy that the court agreed with us. Now the court can proceed with writing judgement as well as delivering the judgement,” he said.
Mphwiyo’s lawyer Michael Goba-Chipeta was not available for a comment.
But in his submission to the court earlier, he said there was a risk of injustice to the suspects if the court would proceed to render judgement as the presiding judge did not get the chance to hear testimonies of witnesses first hand.
Goba-Chipeta also pointed out tha t i f judgement is pronounced now and if the suspects are convicted, then the convicts would find it difficult to make an appropriate appeal against their conviction or sentence in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal because it will be based on proceed ings not carried out appropriately.
Last year, the applicants also sought a stay pending judicial review on an application made in relation to the extension of retired High Court Judge Esmie Chombo’s tenure, who was initially handling the matter.
Hearing of the 2014 Cashgate trial was concluded in the High Court in Lilongwe in August last year and the court had indicated that it would pass judgement before March 2023.
A total of 19 accused persons were arrested and charged at the start of the trial, but five have since died over the trial period while four were discharged and one was convicted and sentenced.
During the trial, the State paraded 35 witnesses and tendered 300 exhibits