Lack of Evidence and Unavailable Witnesses Result in Discharge of Bakili Muluzi’s Corruption Cases

Lilongwe, Malawi – The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Masauko Chamkakala, has attributed the lack of evidence and unavailability of state witnesses as key factors in the discharge of former President Bakili Muluzi’s K1.7 billion corruption cases. The High Court of Malawi cleared Muluzi and his co-accused of all charges, marking the end of a 14-year legal battle.

Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, Albert Mbawala, confirmed receiving the DPP’s report on the discharge of Muluzi on May 29, 2023. Mbawala acknowledged that the lack of evidence and unavailability of witnesses were among the reasons cited by the DPP for discontinuing the case. The committee is scheduled to meet with the DPP on June 17, 2023, to seek further clarification on these issues.

Mbawala emphasized the committee’s intention to inquire about the witnesses’ identities and their reasons for being unavailable. The committee will subsequently compile a report with recommendations, which will be presented to Parliament during the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting.

Chamkakala confirmed submitting the report to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament but declined to disclose its contents, citing legal constraints. Under Section 99(3) of the Constitution, the DPP is required to provide an explanation for the discontinuance to the committee within ten days of the order.

While Muluzi’s discharge has raised concerns among some lawyers, others argue that the challenges lie with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Legal scholar Danwood Chirwa described the case as a mockery of the country’s anti-corruption efforts and a low point in the ACB’s record of prosecutions and convictions. On the other hand, lawyer Justin Dzonzi opined that the discontinuance of the case could be attributed to the weaknesses in the evidence presented by the ACB.

Former ACB directors Reyneck Matemba and Lucas Kondowe have previously stated that the matter was not prosecutable. In December 2022, ACB Director General Martha Chizuma expressed frustrations with the challenges her office faced in prosecuting high-profile corruption cases, including preliminary court orders that impeded progress.

Muluzi and his former personal secretary, Lyness Whiskey, were arrested in 2006 on allegations of embezzling K1.7 billion ($12 million) in funds received as aid from Taiwan, Morocco, and Libya. Muluzi, who served as the country’s president from 1994 to 2004, denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the case was politically motivated and that no foreign country would deposit donor money into a personal account.

The trial commenced in 2009 but experienced multiple adjournments due to Muluzi’s ill health as he sought medical treatment abroad. The conclusion of the case marks the end of a lengthy legal process that has spanned over a decade.