There’s no proof HH commented of presidential jet case-Court

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THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has ruled that the jet case involving former ministry of defense permanent secretary will be determined under the Subordinate Court Act as a normal case and not under the Economic and Financial Crimes Court.

Lusaka chief resident magistrate Davies Chibwili has since urged members of the public to desist from commenting on matters that are active in Court.

In this matter Mwale is jointly charged with Isabel Wilima Chinji, and military personnel general Micheal Obister Mbewe, Evaristo Sakala, Frank Hardy Sinyangwe and Dr John Phiri for wilful failure to comply with procurement procedures relating to purchasing of the presidential jet Gulf-stream G650 and corrupt acquisition of public property.

At the last sitting five accused President Hakainde Hichilema of having convicted them publicly during a conference attended by adjudicators in Livingstone last year, when he hinted of selling the presidential jet which he said was purchased at an exorbitant price.

The accused sought an assurance on whether their prosecution will be just after having been publicly incriminated by the most powerful man in the land and his minister of defense Ambrose Lufuma.

Mwale and his co-accused asked the Court to refer the matter to the High Court for a determination on whether they will have a fair trial following the statement made by the President.

The accused also wanted the court clarify under which category their case fell whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Court (EFCC) or an ordinary case under the ACC Act.

They argued that if the case fell under the EFCC, it was being heard outside schedule pursuant to gazette notice no. 17381738 of 2023 issued by the Judiciary directing Subordinate Courts to hear such cases in sessions within five months effective February 5, 2024.

But ruling on the applications magistrate Chibwili said the case will be heard in conformity with the Subordinate Court Act as a normal case under the ACC Act as it was taken to Court in June 2023 before divisions of specialised Court were created at the Subordinate Court.

“The matter came as a normal case in this case, it’s specification is yet to be known and the impact of the gazette notice will also be known therefore making this application is neither here nor there,” magistrate Chibwili said.

“I will continue to hear this matter as a normal criminal case.”

The Court further refused to refer the matter to the Superior Court on reasons that there is no material evidence to prove that President Hichilema and Lufuma publicly convicted the five.

“There was no evidence that the President and the minister made the comments complained of. If they did so it must have been made before the case commenced. As guided by the Supreme Court persons must desist from commenting on matters that are pending determination before Court,”said magistrate Chibwili.

“The arguments that the comment amounted to instructions to the Judiciary and other independent were rejected in similar applications made before the Supreme Court therefore the application for a constitutional reference cannot be granted. I find no merit in the applications and accordingly dismiss them.”

He adjourned the case to February 7 for commencement of trial.

By Mwaka Ndawa

Kalemba January 30, 2023.

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