Lawyers representing Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela in a matter where he’s charged with three others for concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime have said that they shall not hesitate to ask the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court to call State witnesses on warrant if they are not brought at the next sitting.

This was after the State asked for an adjournment after the only witness they had brought to Court concluded his testimony.

Meanwhile, a Transaction Risk Officer at Stanbic Bank has told the Court that on July 29, 2016, there was an inward transfer of US$153,850 from Andrews and Partners firm to MSK Advocates.

In this matter, Chitotela and three others are facing four counts of concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime.

And when the matter came up for continuation of trial, Magistrate David Simusamba reiterated that all media houses should desist from misrepresenting facts or commenting irresponsibly on the matters before Court, warning that he shall not hesitate to cite anyone for contempt.

The State then called its witness, a Transaction Risk Officer at Stanbic Bank Ronald Musenge who testified that an officer from the Anti-Corruption Commission served the bank with a warrant to provide bank statements on their client’s account, MSK Advocates.

He said from the bank statement, there was a US $153,850 inward transfer from Andrews and Partners firm to MSK on July 29, 2016.

Musenge further said on August 3, 2016, there was a US $120,000 outward transaction from MSK to Wilson and Cornhill Company.

“From the statement of MSK Advocates, on July 29, 2016, there was an inward transfer in the account. The amount is US $153,850.00 from Andrews and Partners. On August 3, 2016, there was an outward transfer of funds from MSK Advocates, the amount is US $120,000. The funds were sent to Wilson and Cornhill,” Musenge narrated.

In cross-examination, the defence lawyers said they had no questions.

At this point, the State apologised to the Court for only bringing one witness for that day, saying it was due to circumstances beyond their control as some of the witnesses were on national duty.

The State promised that they would bring more witnesses at the next sitting and asked that the matter was adjourned to April 23 and 24, 2019.

However, the defence lawyers asked the Court to press on the prosecution to ensure that witnesses were brought to Court so that the matter was speedily dealt with.

One of the defence lawyers, Jonas Zimba, said when a matter is brought to Court, the State was supposed to be ready to prosecute such a matter.

He asked the Court not to entertain the manner in which the State was proceeding, saying criminal matters bordered on the freedom of the accused persons.

Zimba said if the State failed to bring the remaining 26 of the 30 witnesses during the next sitting, the same should be taken to Court on warrant.

“It must also be noted that criminal matters border on the freedom of accused persons and clearly, they will suffer emotional distress as they attend to their matter. The malaise to which the prosecution is proceeding with this matter ought not to be entertained,” Zimba said.

“If on April 23, 2019, the prosecution do not come with their remaining 26 witnesses, let them give the names to the Court on that date and the witnesses should be brought on warrant.”

But ACC prosecutor Leon Lemba objected, saying that at no point did the State say it would bring 30 witnesses “as the record may show.”

However, Magistrate Simusamba asked the State to ensure that they bring more witnesses at the next sitting on April 23.

Three State witnesses have so far testified in the matter.

Previously, an employee under the Ministry of Local Government Mary Lubinga, testified that she sold her house, which is situated in Makeni, to Chitotela at K1.6 million from the initial price of K2.5 million, but the contract of sale indicated a different buyer’s name.

Lubinga testified that the payment agreements of the said house were handled between her lawyer from MSK Advocates and Chitotela’s lawyers from Andrew and Partners.

The witness had further told the Court that she sold her house because she owed a law firm called Wilson and Cornhill some money.

And another witness, an FNB administration manager Mwangala Sikombe, had equally told the Court that that on July 27, 2016, their customer, Andrew and Partners, received an amount of US $299,985, from China Harbour.

The witness further told the Court that on July 29, 2016, Andrew and Partners sent US $154,000 to MSK Advocates at Stanbic Bank Mulungushi Branch, for purchase of a property.

Trial continues.