(By Kaungu Ndumba and Lillian Zulu)
THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court yesterday told Henry Kapoko that he deserved punishment because the over K1 billion (unrebased) he stole from the Ministry of Health between 2007 and 2008 could have helped the poor in the country.
When sentencing Kapoko after he was found guilty of abuse of office, theft by servant and money laundering, High Court deputy registrar Aridah Chulu, who sat as a magistrate, said being greedy and wanting to be rich with stolen money does not pay.
She urged Kapoko, a former human resource officer in the Ministry of Health, to work hard and earn his money.
This was after Kapoko’s lawyer Kelvin Bwalya, in mitigation, pleaded for mercy on behalf of the convict.
“I have heard the lengthy and moving mitigation by your learned counsel but it must be noted that despite being a first offender, the offences you committed are very serious. These are moneys meant to assist the poor in the country,” magistrate Chulu said.
“Greed doesn’t pay. You should work hard. It’s better to be poor than to be rich with stolen money. I’m not saying it’s good to be poor, but work hard. This should be a lesson to others who are planning to steal. We are here to make sure we protect the country.”
Magistrate Chulu sentenced Kapoko to two years in each of the six counts but to run concurrently, meaning that he would only serve two years.
Kapoko, who appeared calm, was taken to Lusaka Correctional Facility shortly after 18:00 hours.
Norbet Peleti, Kapoko’s co-accused on the count of theft by servant, was acquitted because he did not benefit from the said money.
Earlier, Bwalya, in mitigation, said Kapoko regretted his actions and that he was willing to reform.
He pleaded for mercy, saying his client suffered from high blood pressure.
Bwalya also said since the case commenced about eight years ago, Kapoko who was on bail had attended court proceedings throughout and obeyed court directions.
And in her findings, magistrate Chulu said there was overwhelming evidence that Kapoko allowed his companies such as Kansma Investments Limited to participate in bidding processes at the Ministry of Health where he worked as acting chief human resource development officer at the time.
She said it was wrong for a public officer to do that, adding that he acted arbitrarily and abused his authority of office.
“You facilitated the whole tender process and benefited. I have no doubt in my mind that you stole K586,701,000 from the Ministry of Health. The prosecution has proved its case of theft by servant beyond reasonable doubt,” magistrate Chulu added.
The allegation in count one was that Kapoko on unknown dates but between October 1, 2007 and January 2008, in Lusaka, being a public officer as acting chief human resource officer at the Ministry of Health, obtained advantage or profit when he abused his office by influencing the awarding of a contract to Kansma Investments Limited to supply and deliver to the ministry 15 HP Desktop computers and 15 Laserjet printers, a transaction that concerned the ministry.
Count two alleged that Kapoko between December 20, 2007 and February 2008 abused his office by influencing the awarding of a contract to Kansma Investments Limited to supply and deliver three thousand six hundred reams of human resources development forms to the Ministry of Health.
In count three, Kapoko was jointly charged with Norbert Peleti for theft by servant where it was alleged that the duo between February and May 2008 being public servants jointly and whilst acting together with others unknown stole K586,701,000 cash, the property of the government of Zambia.
It was alleged in count four that Kapoko between February 29 and May 2008 engaged directly or indirectly in a business transaction that involved K586,701,000, money acquired from an illegal activity whereby part of the said money was concealed or disguised by purchasing a house on number 25, Manda Hill Road in Olympia, property acquired from an illegal activity.
Further in count five, Kapoko is alleged to have during the same period purchased aluminum sections and locks meant to develop Best Home Lodge in Lusaka’s Roma area.
And in count six, Kapoko is alleged to have purchased a conference table and 15 armchairs, property acquired from proceeds of crime.
Kapoko has since forfeited the house in Olympia, over K700,000 and other items to the state.
Following his conviction on Wednesday, the State, through a prosecutor from the Anti-Corruption Commission, applied that magistrate Chulu should exercise her judicial powers under section 41 (C) of the ACC Act of 1996 for Kapoko to forfeit house number 25 Manda Hill Road, a conference table and aluminium worth K31,982 to the State.
In her ruling, magistrate Chulu ordered that Kapoko forfeits the properties to the State.
“In addition, the amounts in count one and count two (K117,000 and K586,701 respectively) to be recovered and be forfeited to the State,” ordered magistrate Chulu.
Kapoko has indicated that he would appeal to the Lusaka High Court but is yet to file his grounds.