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Judge issues warning to Bakili Muluzi

High Court Judge Maclean Kamwambe has issued a stern warning to former president Bakili Muluzi and his lawyers that he would be forced to issue “drastic measures” to have his graft case concluded should his team continue advancing medical excuses.

Kamwambe said this yesterday when one of the defence lawyers in the about US$6.8 million (about K1.7 billion then) graft case, Jai Banda, asked for adjournment on grounds that Muluzi was scheduled to get medical attention next month.

The case started in 2006.

“I would not wish to take drastic measures like what happened in Egypt where an accused person was dragged to court on a trolley.

“That is why I have said in the previous court session that the accused [Muluzi] be in a comfortable position and, indeed, he never sat in the accused box [as per tradition],” Kamwambe said.

He further punched holes in the medical report the defence said would be bringing to determine Muluzi’s fitness to stand trial, saying such medical reports might not be conclusive as they lack clear details.

“The medical report [to be issued] may not be conclusive and if you recall, I mentioned that the medical report [which saw the adjournment of the matter to this year] was falling short of mentioning ABC.

“So, let’s not be tied down to a medical report which is not giving justification why we can’t proceed,” said Kamwambe, asking Muluzi’s and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lawyers that they liaise and set a date right there.

Kamwambe said he could not understand why the case could not be held in chunks, with breaks in between, saying the court is slowly beginning to forget some of the facts in the matter.

ACB Deputy Director for Prosecutions David Nyamilandu supported the judge’s view, saying the Bureau would be forced to re-submit its request to have Muluzi examined by an independent doctor should these excuses based on medical grounds continue.

“You Lordship, you will recall that we had submitted to this court that the accused [Muluzi] be examined by an independent doctor just to allay fears the nation has [and] at some point, we would be making the same submission if it continues to go like this.

“At the very least, we might make submissions that the trial continues if he [Muluzi] is incapacitated. After all, Your Lordship, we’re aided by technology; proceedings are being recorded.

“The recordings of the proceedings could therefore be made available to the accused by his counsel if he indeed can’t attend trial,” said Nyamilandu, adding the State is eager to bring the matter to finality.

Banda had asked the court to adjourn the matter to another date since Muluzi would be going to South Africa for medical attention.

He said Muluzi was originally scheduled to leave on last Saturday and be admitted to hospital tomorrow [Wednesday] but he did not get funds from the government due to civil servants’ strike.

Banda therefore said Muluzi rescheduled the appointment demanded that he leaves for South Africa on March 6 to return on April 27 this year.

The court has since set May 13, this year as the date the trial will resume and will run for three consecutive weeks.

Muluzi and his accomplice Lyness Whisky are accused of diverting government’s K1.7 billion of donor money into his personal account.

The said money allegedly came from the Republic of China, the Kingdom of Morocco and Libya. Muluzi and his accomplice deny the charges.

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