LUSAKA magistrate Alice Walusiku has remanded two Marshlands Consortium directors Tobias Milambo and Richard Lubemba in custody for absconding court.
At the last sitting Milambo and Lubemba did not attend court and were reported to be in isolation as they had come into contact with a COVID-19 patients but Magistrate Walusiku ordered the arrest of the duo for missing court.
This is in a matter where Milambo, Lubemba and Nachi Musinda are facing 15 counts of forgery, obtaining money by false pretenses and uttering false documents, among them Ultimate Insurance Company Limited shareholder resolutions.
It is alleged that the accused forged documents purporting to show that they had been appointed as directors at Ultimate Insurance Company Limited.
Between January 1, 2018 and December 31, last year, Milambo, Musonda and Lubemba, with intent to defraud, allegedly forged a Bitrust Rear Estate Innovative Solution Valuation Report dated January 6, 2018 for stand no.9192/35 Manunga Road, Ndola.
Last week, state prosecutor Noah Mwanza made an application the Milambo and Lubemba be placed on bench warrant for missing court.
This was after their lawyers Nchima Nchito and Chisuwo Hamweela told magistrate Walusiku that Milambo and Lubemba were not before court because they were in isolation after being in contact with a COVID-19 patient and were awaiting to be tested for COVID-19.
The defence also told court that Musonda tested positive for COVID-19 and was out in quarantine before presenting a medical report for their client.
However Mwanza the questioned the authenticity of Musonda’s medical report and requested that it be subject to investigations to ascertain whether the accused really contracted the virus.
Magistrate Walusiku issued a bench warrant against Milambo and Lubemba and ordered that the medical personnel who attended to Musonda appear before her on September 7 to confirm if the latter was attended to.
When the matter came up Mwanza told the court that the doctor from Levy Mwanawasa Hospital who was supposed to give a position on Musonda’s health status was not available because he was attending to an emergency in the operation theatre.
He also told the court that the warrants against Milambo and Lubemba had been executed.
Milambo and Lubemba were allegedly apprehended at the gate of the court entrance by police officers under the instructions of Mwanza and the arresting officer. According to sources Mwanza and the accuseds’ arresting officer directed police officers to arrest the accused persons immediately they set foot on the court premises.
Hamweela asked the court to for cancel the bench warrant against Milambo and Lubemba because they did not abscond court on purpose but that at the time the warrant was issued, they were in the court’s car park on account that they had been in close proximity to someone exposed to COVID-19.
“The accused persons like the rest of us have a duty to ensure that they don’t expose the public to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Nachi Musonda was exposed to COVID-19 patient and produced medical documents. He in turn came into contact with the two accused persons(Lubemba and Milambo), ” Hamweela said.
He said the accused persons were advised to stay in the car park by the defence while it came to seek the Court’s guidance over their welfare.
Hamweela explained that the accused’s absence was not meant to disrespect the court but to avoid spreading the disease.
However Mwanza objected to the application saying it was premature because the State was challenging the medical report presented in court.
He also argued that the defence cannot claim that the accused were in the car park without adducing proof.
In he ruling, magistrate Walusiku said that at the last sitting, the accused were said to have been in the car park but no document was produced to show that they were in contact with a COVID-19 patient.
She further denied the application to cancel the bench warrant against the accused and ordered that they be remanded in custody until the matter was disposed of.
The defence then applied for bail as the offenses were bailable but the state sought an adjournment to avoid producing evidence from the bar and that it needed time to bring witnesses to aide its response.
Mwanza suggested that the State responds to the application on October 6, which was a preset date.
Magistrate Walusiku granted the state an adjournment but ordered that the matter comes up on September 22 as the law prescribes that when the state seeks an adjournment to respond to a bail application it should be done within 15 days.
©Kalemba September 8, 2020