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K6.2 bn Covid funds plunder suspects charged

The Chief Resident Magistrate Court in Lilongwe is tomorrow set to decide on the bail application of two senior government officials and a contractor on a case involving the plunder of Covid relief funds.

The two government officials are Director of Administration in the Office of the President and Cabinet Rashid Mtelera and Dominic Chimaliro from the same office.

Mtelera, Chimaliro and a contractor Martin Mainja appeared before court this morning for allegedly misappropriating over 97 Million Kwacha.

The trio has been charged with four counts of abuse of office, conspiracy to defraud the government and flouting procurement procedures.

However, one of the defense lawyers Powell Nkhutabasa trashed claims that the accused persons may interfere with witnesses and that they were man haunted, arguing that they surrendered themselves to the police upon hearing that they were wanted.

Lawyer for the second accused person Khwima Mchizi, accused the state prosecutor of rushing to make arrests based on the audit report without conducting proper investigations, which he says is lack of professionalism.

Lawyer for the third accused person Khumbo Soko, highlighted that it is unfortunate that the state is buying public opinion, which has already found those named in the audit report guilty.

Upon hearing applications from both the State and defence teams, Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa has adjourned the case to tomorrow afternoon.

On the other hand, 8 other people suspected to have abused Covid-19 funds appeared in court in Blantyre.

State Prosecutor Isaac Kadawayula told the court that the purpose of  taking the suspects in court was  to have them hear why they were arrested and not to take plea.

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Kadawayula argued that the suspects should remain on remand while the state finalises investigations on the matter.

Lawyers for the accused described the application by the state as an abuse of justice and asked the court not condone it.

The defense lawyers are since applying for the accused to be granted bail.

Chief Resident Magistrate Jean Kaira has reserved her ruling to Tuesday next week on bail application by the defense for the 8 immigration officers alleged to have mismanaged Covid-19 funds.

The accused will remain in custody, except 8th accused, Linda Mauluka who has a 2 month old baby.

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