BLANTYRE (Malawian Watchdog)—After being viewed as a thief by the Malawi Public and having his image tainted as being a convict of Cashgate scandal—a deliberate siphoning of government resources during Joyce Banda regime—Maxwell Namata can now start rebuilding his image as Malawi Supreme Court has ruled that Namata was wrongly convicted and sentenced by the High Court.
The Supreme Court say High Court convicted him on unfounded evidence.
Namata and his accomplice Luke Kasamba were handed eight and five years custodial sentences respectively on February 16, 2015 on two counts of theft and money laundering contrary to Section 35(1)(c) of Money Laundering and Terrorist Finance Act for the amount of K24,179,120.70 ($42 419.51).
A panel of three judges in the Supreme Court comprising Anthony Kamanga, Lovemore Chikopa and Reizene Mzikamanda on Friday overturned the conviction and the sentencing, effectively releasing Namata.
Namata’s appeal was based on eight grounds which his lawyer Michael Chipeta summarized into two categories.
In the first category, Namata challenged his conviction, both on the theft as well as money laundering offences, while in the second category he is challenging the veracity of his sentence arguing that it was contrary to law and manifestly excessive.
Chipeta argued that the evidence brought before the High Court showed that government consented in issuing the payments of the money as such it could not be said that the elements of the offence of theft were proved.
While making reference to an earlier Supreme Court judgment, Chipeta also argued that once the money, deposited by a customer is in the bank, ownership of that money no longer belongs to the customer but bank.
“In this case the cheques were deposited in Standard Bank whether they were cashed later on by whoever got the payment from Standard Bank it can’t be said that ownership of that money was government it was Standard Bank according to this case [Supreme Court earlier ruling] that I am referring to,” explained Chipeta .
The judges agreed to set aside his convictions because they noted that “there is no predicate offence establishing conclusively proceeds of serious crime.”
The court acquitted Namata and the sentences were set aside.
Kasamba freely decided to withdraw his appeal case. This development sends a wrong signal on the competence of the judges of the high court in Malawi.
One wonders how can a whole judge convict a suspect on unfound evidence? Recently, the same Supreme Court gave bail pending appeal to legal luminary Raphael Kasambara when in fact the high court refused him the same bail.
When people such as Kamata sue government for wrong arrest and imprisonment, tax payers money will eventually going to be needlessly spent.