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Thursday, December 08, 2005

AG takes up Muluzi’s duty evasion case
by Olivia Kumwenda, 08 December 2005 - 05:24:28
Attorney-General (AG) Ralph Kasambara together with Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) lawyer Henry Ngutwa are now representing the authority in a case former president Bakili Muluzi is being asked to pay about K111 million for 86 vehicles he reportedly bought duty free.
The former president is said to have cleared the vehicles under the President’s (Salaries and Benefits) Act of 1994 when he was in power. The Act allows the President to obtain goods for personal use duty-free.
But Muluzi is said to have distributed the vehicles to UDF officials and other people.
During Wednesday’s hearing at the Blantyre High Court, Kasambara asked the court to give direction on certain issues before commencement of the substantive hearing of the matter.
The issues include the fact that either party may file a supplementary affidavit, both parties file in court skeletal arguments, list of authorities and chronological of events, the matter should come before a judge in an open court and deponents of affidavits be present in court to be cross-examined where necessary.
“Supplementary affidavits and skeletal arguments will help clear all preliminary matters and assist the court in preparing to hear the matter respectively,” said Kasambara.
But Muluzi’s lawyer David Kanyenda objected to Kasambara’s application, saying the defence was served by the plaintiff a notice of hearing that clearly indicated that they are ready to proceed with the substantive matter.
“In our view this matter ought to proceed today,” said Kanyenda.
In his ruling, Justice Healey Potani said it is apparent that the parties had come to court with different things in mind.
“The plaintiff was coming to court for directions on some technical aspects as to how the matter would proceed and not for the substantive hearing. On the part of defendant, counsel was prepared for a substantive hearing and as such objected to the direction being sought and indeed the adjournment of the hearing of the substantive action,” said Potani.
Potani added that because there were no skeleton arguments from both sides, he found merit in the prayer for direction by the plaintiff and adjourned the case to week beginning January 16, 2005.
He further ordered that both parties be free to file and serve affidavits within seven days, both parties file skeletal arguments, lists of authorities and chronological of events within seven days.
The judge also ruled that each side should file court bundle, should any party wish to cross-examine any deponents it should be done by way of notice and that the hearing of the matter shall be before a single judge in an open court.
Hearing of the case failed last week after MRA lawyers did not show up. When asked on their absence, none of MRA legal practitioners knew who was supposed to handle the case as they kept referring it to one another.

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