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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa stops ACB from questioning Muluzi

The High Court in Blantyre on Monday granted UDF National Chairman Bakili Muluzi an injunction stopping the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from questioning him over how the K1.4 billion from local and international donors found itself in his private account
The injunction, granted by High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa, restrains the ACB or its agents from enforcing its notice that Muluzi should appear before the bureau.
The order also stops the ACB from prosecuting Muluzi under the Corrupt Practices Act for failing to comply with the notice.
The ACB had summoned Muluzi to appear at its Blantyre offices Monday afternoon in compliance with the notice it served him last week to explain the money transfers into his personal account that took place between April, 1999 and November, 2004.
“Muluzi’s lawyers decided to give us the injunction two hours before he was due to appear. Although he was given seven days, it is regrettable that he and his advisors chose to proceed ex parte, thus denying me the opportunity to explain my position to the court,” ACB director Gustave Kaliwo told a news conference in Blantyre.
“Be that as it may, The ACB will continue with its investigations into the matter and the bureau’s investigations will not be held up by time wasting tactics,” he said.
According to affidavits filed by Muluzi’s lawyer, David Kanyenda, the former President has applied for the injunction because he believes he is being persecuted by the current government.
The affidavits cited the recent case where his security detail was removed without his permission and the issue where the ACB is probing his Keza office complex as incidents of political persecution.
“It is ordered that an injunction be and is hereby issued restraining the respondent or his agents or servants or through whosoever from enforcing his notice to answer questions, provide information and furnish documents issued under section 11 of the Corrupt Practices Act.
“It also restrains the respondent from requiring the applicant to appear at the ACB offices to answer questions and produce all original documents in his possession or certified true copies of documents in his possession or under his control,” reads a copy of the injunction.
But the ACB has complained of underhand tactics by Muluzi and his legal advisors for saying he is being persecuted.
“They are trying to involve other cases when this is a different case altogether. By summoning the former head of state, we wanted to save time and money and prove whether there is a case or not for him to answer,” Kaliwo said at the impromptu press briefing.
Kaliwo said the questioning was meant to expedite the matter and help the bureau in understanding the workings of government in respect to the certain types of transactions from Muluzi’s point of view.
He hinted that he might challenge the injunction.
The court has since ruled that the injunction remains valid until the main issues raised in the affidavits are determined.
This is the second time in three months that Muluzi has got an injunction against the ACB. He got the first injunction when he was leaving for a three-week holiday in the United Kingdom when the bureau wanted him to furnish it with a sworn statement on how he amassed his wealth and managed to build the multi-million Kwacha Keza Office complex.
Meanwhile, the ACB has cleared Attorney General Ralph Kasambara of any corrupt practices. The AG was being probed for alleged influence in a pre-shipment contract. He was also accused of meddling in the affairs of widowed Hellen Singh and her son—involving inheritance of property left by her husband.
Kaliwo said in both cases Kasambara does not have anything to answer.
The ACB also put to rest claims by Justice Minister Henry Phoya that there was a trio in government that was milking Indians. Kaliwo said officials from the bureau interviewed 28 Asians from all the regions who denied the existence of such a trio.
“Even the honourable Phoya himself said he did not have evidence and said he was only acting on hearsay,” said Kaliwo.

Story by The Nation

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