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Viola pleads “Not guilty”

Deputy Chief Executive Officer  of the National Food Reserve Agency-NFRA, Gerald Viola has pleaded not guilty to a new charge of conspiracy to misuse of public office on top of other charges leveled against him by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

He was in court on Friday morning for continuation of trial where the ACB is already alleging that the Deputy CEO misused a public office, interfered with the work of the Internal Procurement and Disposal of Assets Committee and was involved in forgery.

Viola was arrested on suspicion that on 22 January, 2020 he unilaterally issued a Local Purchase Order for Missies Trading to supply 10,000 metric tons of maize valued at K3.3 billion for the interest of Chrispine Chingola of the company, who has now joined the case as the second accused.

Following the deal, Viola demanded 10% of the total contract, a sum translating to K330 000 000.

Appearing before Principal Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba, lawyer representing ACB in the matter, Bernard Phiri, requested that the charge sheet be amended to add Chingola to the case as he is believed to have been involved in the matter.

“The facts of the case are disclosing that the offense was committed jointly by Gerald Viola and Chrispine Chingola and the last time we were in court, only Viola took plea but now the arrest of Chingola has necessitated the amendment,” explained Phiri.

On the charge of conspiring to misuse a public office, both Viola and Chingola have pleaded not guilty. Chingola has further denied charges of forgery and influencing a public officer to misuse his office as read to him in court during plea taking.

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The state is therefore expected to parade at least eight witnesses to testify in the case.

On behalf of Chingola, the ACB asked the court if bail can be given to the second accused with conditions similar to those that were given to Viola during his previous court appearance. Principal Resident Magistrate Nyimba agreed to the proposition but Chingola begged the court if the monetary conditions could be adjusted as his business is not in good shape and he may not satisfy the court’s needs.

“Since Covid-19 struck, my business has not been doing well and I may not have K500,000 as cash bond to give the court for this bail application,” Chingola told the court on his own behalf.

He added that from his stationary shop in Lilongwe’s Area 3, he earns about K100,000 and has no property to be used as a bond.

While granting the accused bail, Nyimba ordered that instead of paying cash bond of K500,000, he must pay K400,000 and his surety must pay likewise. He further ordered that Chingola must report to ACB every Friday in a fortnight and must surrender his travel documents. He is also expected to avoid interfering with state or potential witnesses.

Viola’s lawyer in the case, Geoffrey Taumbe, has since raised no objections to matters discussed, mostly those concerning his client. The duo is expected to return to court for continuation on 11 January, 2021.

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