INFRASTRUCTURE and Housing Development minister Ronald Chitotela’s lawyer Jonas Zimba has told the court that if the prosecution fails to bring their remaining 26 witnesses in the matter, the court should order that they be brought through bench warrants.
And the prosecution yesterday availed only one witness, Ronald Musenge, 35, a transaction risk officer at Stanbic Bank, who presented a bank statement which showed that on July 29, 2016, there was an inward transaction of US$153,850.00 from Andrews and Partners and an inward transaction on August 3, 2016 from MSK Advocates of US$120,000 which funds were sent to Wilson and Corn hill.
According to evidence of the first prosecution witness Mary Lubinga who testified on March 20, her lawyers MSK executed the contract for sale of her house at plot 148/50A in Makeni on her behalf but she signed the contract as a vendor while one of Chitotela’s co-accused Diris Mukange signed as a purchaser.
She had told the court that one of the reasons she sold her house was that she owed Wilson and Cornhill K1.2 million.
This is in a matter in which Chitotela, who is also Pambashe PF member of parliament, is jointly charged with Gregory Chibanga, Brut Holdings Limited operations manager Mwenya Chisala and Mukange.
Allegations in the first and second counts are that Chitotela, Chibanga and Brut Holding Limited between July 1, 2016 and October 30, 2018, in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together concealled lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Mukange and the remaining extent of subdivision A of lot 22183 /M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka which was also disguised in the name of Mukange.
The two properties are reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
The third and fourth counts allege that during the same period, Mukange possessed the two properties, which were suspected of being proceeds of crime.
And Zimba asked the court to issue warrants if witnesses fail to appear at the next sitting.
Zimba said this after the prosecution avail only one witness and indicated to the court that they were unable to bring other witnesses due to circumstances beyond their control as some witnesses were attending to national duties.
Zimba said at the last hearing, the case gained momentum, saying the court should not entertain adjournments.
He said the mandate with which the prosecution was proceeding with this matter ought not be entertained.
Zimba said at the next hearing, if the State fails to bring their 26 remaining witnesses, the court should be given names so that they are brought on warrant.
But ACC prosecutor Leon Lemba said at no time did he indicate that the State was bringing 30 witnesses.
Zimba said he was told about that off record.
Another defence lawyer Noel Simwanza said the State did not have the luxury of choosing which witness to bring on particular day.
He said the State should ensure that they bring witnesses so that the case does not drag as it should be dealt with speedily.
James Mataliro, who is representing Chibanga and Mukange, adopted submissions by his colleagues but added that the defence would not hesitate to invite the court to provisions of section 99 of Criminal Procedure Code chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia should the prosecution continue their failure to bring witnesses.
He said it prejudices their client to come and sit for an hour.
Mark Haimbe, who is defending Brut Holding, adopted the submissions, saying the prosecution should be cautioned to put effort to bringing more witnesses.
And Simusamba told the State to ensure that they bring more witnesses.
Earlier, Musenge testified that between July and August 2016, ACC officers served the bank with a search warrant through compliance, which requested for information on the account of their customer – MSK Advocates.
He said the statement which the officer requested for was in the bank’s system.
Musenge said he availed the documents which he printed from the system and verified it.
He said the statement shows customer transactions such as inflows of cash as well as outflows.
Musenge said according to the statement, on July 29, 2016, there was an inward transaction of K153,850.00 from Andrews and Partner.
He said from August 3, 2016, there was an outward transaction from MSK Advocates of US$120,000 and the funds were sent to Wilson and Cornhill.
Meanwhile, the defence lawyer asked magistrate Simusamba to resound his earlier warning to the media on reporting the proceedings accurately.
He brought to the court’s attention the publication of the News Diggers, which was inaccurate.
He asked magistrate Simusamba to resound its warning regarding such publications that are not only inaccurate but also scandalous and an affront to journalism as a profession as well as proceedings before court.
Zimba said the case against News Diggers was currently before magistrate Nthandose Chabala.
Magistrate Simusamba reiterated his warning that the media should desist from irresponsible reporting on matters before court.
The matter was adjourned to April 23 and 24 for continued trial.