Govt allowed Muluzi to import vehicles
BY Frank Namangale
02:42:42 - 22 February 2006
Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner of Customs and Excise told the High Court in Blantyre yesterday they allowed former president Bakili Muluzi to import cars, among other items, duty free based on instructions from State House and the Finance Minister.The revenue collecting body, according to court records, claims the former president owes it K111 million. Muluzi, who is UDF national chairman, is said to have imported over 100 cars, 5,000 T/shirts, 2,500 caps, 90,000 meters of cloth and 2,000 wrist watches among other items duty free using Presidents Salary and Benefits Act. The witness, Funwell Mzunga said the law did not allow Muluzi to import the goods in question and extend them for use by other persons (in this case UDF), explaining that there was a belief that the goods were being imported for personal use.Mzunga said it was discovered later towards the end of 2004 that the goods were being used by UDF.He said when re-examined by the MRA lawyer, there was no inclination in the letters from the State House that the goods being imported were for personal use.The witness said written instructions from State House between March and May 2004 to let the goods imported by Muluzi enter duty free were getting to him through then Commissioner General Ernest Mtingwi.Mzunga said MRA’s Chief Legal Counsel Dominic Mpango wrote Minister of Justice on his behalf when the amendment of a law on Presidents Salary and Benefits Act was enforced in 1994, seeking clarification on a point where it says, “the President would be allowed to import goods duty free for personal use”.“I did not understand the term personal use. Before the amendment, the law said goods for use by the President would be imported duty free. But the Justice Minister said the law was in order,” Mzunga said.The witness was cornered earlier by Muluzi’s lawyer David Kanyenda on why he did not exhibit in his affidavits documents to the effect that Muluzi imported the said items.Kanyenda also put it to the witness that there was no evidence that in as far as the witness’s affidavits were concerned to show that Muluzi imported the goods.The lawyer challenged the witness to point out at one individual who used the goods imported other than Muluzi and the witness said he could only point at an institution, UDF. Earlier, MRA lawyers Henry Ngutwa and Mpango objected to the cross-examination of witnesses that was supposed to be done sometime back, arguing lawyers for the defendant notified them of their intention to cross-examine their witnesses and they did not seek the court’s leave.Mpango asked Justice Healey Potani to object to the cross-examination and sought the court’s indulgence to direct them.But Kanyenda argued that no prejudice had been occasioned to MRA and objecting them to cross-examine the witnesses would operate to defeat the course of justice. He said the delay in serving the notice came because Muluzi was in the UK receiving medical treatment and had problems to seek instructions.Judge Potani agreed with Kanyenda that denying them a chance to cross-examine the witness would make the court experience difficulties in arriving at a fair decision and he allowed Muluzi’s lawyer to go ahead cross-examining Mzunga.Other witnesses were not around and the court adjourned the matter to a date yet to be set.MRA last year in January impounded UDF vehicles for nonpayment of duty but Muluzi managed to get an injunction to force MRA return the vehicles and were given back to him.