LUTEPO SENTENCING SUSPENDED

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The High Court in Zomba yesterday failed to pass judgment over the convicted businessman and former peoples party national governing council member Oswald Lutepo.

Lutepo, who was convicted on his own plea of guilty on charges of conspiracy to defraud government and money laundering of K4.2 billion ($9.3 million) between April and September 2013, was due for sentencing on Thursday and appeared in court on wheel chair only to have State applying for postponement on confiscation and pecuniary orders and sentence hearing.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mary Kachali argued that it could not go ahead with the order because, among others, there were wide discrepancies on the value of assets which Lutepo declared.

She submitted to court that Lutepo’s Woget Industries was valued at K1 427 000 000.00 but the defence while the State put it at K292 585 250.00.
Lutepo’s lawyer Oswald Mtupila asked the court not to proceed with the sentence arguing that confiscation order has a bearing on the sentencing.

The businessperson-cum-politician risks losing assets of his companies, among them, International Procurement Services, O and G Construction Limited, Woget Cotton Ginning which is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings and Naming’omba Tea Estates.

Money laundering attracts a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and K2 million ($4 444) fine while conspiracy to defraud government attracts an imprisonment sentence of three years, according to Section 323 of the Penal Code.

Lutepo is the seventh person to be convicted on Cashgate related charges since trials began in February 2014, but the highest sentence imposed for money laundering has so far been seven years the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court imposed on civil servant Victor Sithole.

Presiding Judge Redson Kapindu then adjourned the case to August 3 2015 to make a ruling on the submissions which will then determine whether to postpone the confiscation order or not and sentencing.
Lutepo has led a flamboyant lifestyle on the back of the despicable cashgate crimes which have caused so much misery up and down the country.

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