The Senior Resident Magistrate Court in Blantyre yesterday refused to discharge businessperson Karim Batatawala and three other accused persons from the K1.5 billion fraud and money laundering case.
The four had asked the court to discharge them from the case saying the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) delayed in serving disclosures to the defense.
But in his ruling, magistrate Martin Chipofya said they have not reached a point where it can be claimed that the case has been delayed.
ACB was expected to send the disclosures to the defence team by 10th February but only did so on Friday last week.
ACB chief Martha Chizuma told the court that witness briefings have been delayed due to challenges in accessing funds and because ACB prosecutors recused themselves from the case.
Chipofya yesterday gave the ACB up to 31st of March 2022 to serve the defence with the second volume of the disclosures. The defence will then have 21 days to go through the disclosures. Trial in the case is expected to commence on 25th of April 2022.
Reacting to the proceedings yesterday, Chizuma was happy with the decision of the court but lawyer for Batatawala, Henry Phoya, argued that it is clear the state is not ready to prosecute the case.
Batatawala and three people from Immigration Department are accused of conspiracy to defraud government by inflating the market price of 500 lockers procured by the Immigration Department. The four are accused of inflating the market price of the lockers sourced from Africa Commercial Agency at K2 950 560 per unit price totaling K1.5 billion. Batatawala is also accused of money laundering.
Former Immigration Chief Elvis Thodi as well as Immigration officials Fletcher Nyirenda and Limbani Chawinga are the other three suspects in the case.