Malawi’s Supreme Court acquits Cashgate convict

The Supreme Court of Appeal has acquitted Maxwell Namata who was convicted on money laundering charges, related to the Cashgate scandal.

Namata and his accomplice Luke Kasamba were handed eight and five years custodial sentences respectively on February 16, 2015 on two counts of theft and money laundering involving over MK24 billion (about US$42 million), contrary to the law.

A panel of three judges; Anthony Kamanga, Lovemore Chikopa and Reizene Mzikamanda on Fridayoverturned the conviction and the sentencing, effectively releasing Namata.

Namata’s appeal was based on eight grounds, which his lawyer Michael Chipeta summarised into two categories.

In the first category, Namata challenged his conviction, both on the theft as well as money laundering offences, while in the second category he is challenging the veracity of his sentence arguing that it was contrary to law and manifestly excessive.

Chipeta argued that the evidence brought before the High Court showed that government consented in issuing the payments of the money, therefore, it could not be said that the elements of the offence of theft were proved.

While making reference to an earlier Supreme Court judgment, Chipeta also argued that once the money deposited by a customer is in the bank, ownership of that money no longer belongs to the customer but the bank.

“In this case the cheques were deposited in Standard Bank. Whether they were cashed later on by whoever got the payment from Standard Bank, it can’t be said that ownership of that money was government. It was Standard Bank, according to this case [Supreme Court earlier ruling] that I am referring to,” explained Chipeta.

The judges agreed to set aside his convictions because they noted that “there is no predicate offence establishing conclusively proceeds of serious crime.”

The court acquitted Namata and the sentences were set aside.

Kasamba freely decided to withdraw his appeal case./Nyasa Times