THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has acquitted Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Ronald Chitotela and his co-accused of charges of possessing and concealing property suspected to be proceeds of crime. And Chitotela says he forgave those who schemed his arrest. Principal resident magistrate David Simusamba said the State did not established a prima facie case against the accused. In his ruling on no case to answer, magistrate Simusamba said he could not convict Chitotela and others even if they remained silent because there was no basis upon which a reasonable suspicion might be anchored that the property which was allegedly concealed was proceeds of crime.
He said the alleged offence against Chitotela was that of concealing and the prosecutions did not prove it in particulars of the offence. He noted that the prosecutions instead advanced the act of possession when they alleged that the Pambashe PF lawmaker had control of the properties with his wife after they had been disguised in the name of Diris Mukange. Magistrate Simusamba noted that the prosecutions alleged that the US$300,000 that was allegedly used to purchase the properties was paid by China Harbour Engineering Services Limited to Andrew and Partners to the account of Brut Holdings Limited.
Brut Holdings acting through it’s director Gregory Chibanga instructed Andrew and Partners to purchase the two properties in Makeni and Ibex Hill and disguise them in the name of Mukange as the purpose of the disguise was to avoid his creditors. He said the Prosecutions did not prove that China Harbour had disputed its indebtedness to Brut Holdings or a contrary position or paid the construction company.
“The prosecutions has not taken issue with the source of the money and the reason for concealing it by Brut Holdings had no factual basis to form a reasonable suspicion against Chitotela when he negotiated or controlled the property as alleged,” said magistrate Simusamba.
“At the foregoing, I find that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case against the accused and I accordingly acquit them of their respective charges.”
After the ruling was delivered, Chitotela shed tears as his sympathisers erupted into jubilation and singing before court could rise. He told journalists outside court that the outcome of the judgment was anticipated.
“I thank the President [Edgar Lungu] for standing with me in difficult circumstances when everybody condemned me but he believed in me. I want to thank those people who schemed this thing against me, I forgave them the first day the schemed this thing against me because I knew I was innocent,” said Chitotela.
“How could I be arrested for the transaction that happened in January 2016 up to July 2016? I was appointed as cabinet minister for the first time. I was meant to undergo this process, thank you to the chiefs, my family and the President, including everyone who believed in my innocence. Now we need to go back and start working. We need to work for the good of the Zambian people.”
His supporters drove the minister in his Range Rover of registration BAJ 6129 around the court complex’s car park while honking, cheering and songs of solidarity and jubilation that lasted about 20 minutes. Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited between July 3, 2016 and October 30, last year in Lusaka, allegedly concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
In the second count, the trio between the same dates were accused of concealing part of subdivision A lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, disguised in the name of Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. In the third count it was alleged that Mukange between the same dates jointly and whilst acting together with other unknown people possessed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makena in Lusaka, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
In the fourth count, Mukange between the same dates possessed part of subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill.