From the look of things, a tedious court battle over former Malawi president the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s deceased estate is here to stay. Mutharika’s Bineth Trust excludes his widow, Callista, currently in court over the same.
The former first lady, in one of her cases to resist eviction from the luxurious residence Casa Blanca Manor at Ndata Farm in Thyolo, stated in her affidavit that her husband wanted to make her a trustee, but the process was not completed at the time of his death.
A search at the Registrar of Companies in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, two weeks ago established that Callista is not part of the Bineth Trust.
The late Mutharika was founder and chairperson of Bineth Trust with his brother Professor Peter Mutharika as vice-chairperson while trustees include his first wife, the late Ethel, and two of their children, Duwa and Madaliso.
Lawyers representing Bineth Trust, through a letter dated October 18 2012, ordered Callista to vacate Ndata Farm within five days, but she resisted the order by obtaining an injunction.
The lawyers said this was a resolution the legal owners of Ndata Farm, Bineth Trust, duly passed on October 11 2012.
The matter returned to court on November 22 2012 where the two parties decided to resolve the issue out of court.
Callista, through her lawyer Meyer Chisanga, was expected to argue for sustenance of the injunction whereas Bineth Trust, through their lawyers, wanted the injunction dismissed before the matter goes into full scale judicial review.
A private practice lawyer said the trust is a legal person; hence, the property under the trust is/was not owned by the late president Mutharika, but the living trustees who manage the property.
Said the lawyer: “There are several advantages of registering property into a trust. For example, if Mutharika finished his term and went out of government, or died outside office, no government was going to seize his property over any issues because it would not have been his.”
The lawyer said property under a trust does not attract estate duty charged at three percent.
The late president registered the Bineth Trust on February 28 2006 under the Trustees Incorporation Act.
Subsidiaries of the Bineth Trust, included The Bingu Silver Grey Foundation for the Elderly and The Bingu Academy of Sciences.
The aim and objectives of the Trust was to administer Bingu Academy of Sciences whose main objective is to enable Malawi to make a quantum leap in high level research in natural and medical sciences specifically based on Malawi’s needs.
The vesting of property indicates that all land and buildings, cash investments, money collected, material grants in aid and all other assets of the trust shall vest in the trust.
Mutharika died on April 5 this year whereas his first wife Ethel died in 2007. Mutharika and Callista married in 2010.