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The Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has ordered the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to release Intelligent Mobility Solutions Board chairman Walid EL Nahas’ passport to enable him travel to Lebanon for medical treatment.
Nahas is jointly charged with former Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda and former RTSA chief executive officer Zindaba Soko for corruption.
Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale has, however, ordered Nahas to surrender his passport to DEC upon his return on March 15, 2020.
In this matter, Nahas is charged with two counts of corrupt practices with a public officer, whereas Soko and Chanda are charged with four counts of corrupt practices by a public officer and possession of property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
The trio had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
It is alleged in count one that Nahas between August 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019 corruptly gave US$10,000 to Soko, a public officer, namely director and chief executive officer of the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), as an inducement or reward in order to facilitate the award of a contract to Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited by RTSA for the provision of advanced road safety solutions and services, a matter or transaction that concerns RTSA, a public body.
In count two, it alleged that Nahas, on the same dates, corruptly gave US$11,000 to Chanda as an inducement or reward in order to facilitate the award of a contract to Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited by RTSA for the provision of advanced road safety solutions and services.
In count three, it is alleged that between August 1, 2017 and May 31, Soko corruptly received US$10,000 from Nahas as inducement to facilitate the award of the Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited contract by RTSA.
It is alleged in the fourth count that Soko, on the same dates, possessed US$10,000, property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
In count five, Chanda is accused of corruptly receiving US$11,000 from Nahas as an inducement to facilitate the award of the contract to Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited by RTSA for the provision of advanced road safety solutions and services.
It is further alleged in count six that Chanda on August 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019 possessed US$11,000, suspected to be proceeds of crime.
When the matter came up, Wednesday, DEC prosecutor Lewis Kandele said the matter was coming up for a mention.
However, Nahas’ lawyer Kennedy Mambwe applied to have his client’s passport released for him to travel to Lebanon for medical treatment.
He made the application pursuant to section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Mambwe asked the court to vary the bail conditions by allowing Nahas to be in custody of his passport, saying the accused had been undergoing medical treatment in Lebanon from June 2018 to date.
He said Nahas had an ailment which fell under the category of cancer and that the medical condition required regular treatment.
“The applicant (Nahas), has been undergoing medical treatment from June 2018 to date in Lebanon. Therefore, it is our application that this court may vary the bail conditions by allowing him to be in custody of the passport,” Mambwe said.
“Further in the affidavit, the applicant has also demonstrated that from the first time that he was arrested under the offences that are before this court on July 9, 2019 and released on police bond, he has undertaken several trips to Lebanon and has voluntarily come back whenever required.”
He said they were mindful of the fact that bail under section 123 of the CPC was granted on the premise that the court should be satisfied that it would secure the attendance of the accused persons as and when required.
Mambwe asked the court to grant the application to allow Nahas to seek medical treatment in Lebanon on condition that it deems fit.
“This court has inherent jurisdiction to exercise that discretion,” he said.
But Kandele asked for an adjournment, saying he was unable to respond to the application as the instruction he was given by the prosecutor handling the matter was merely to adjourn the case.
Magistrate Mwale then asked the defence lawyer how long Nahas was supposed to be in Lebanon for the treatment.
In response, Mambwe said he would be back by March 15, 2020.
Mambwe further said he was of the view that the passport be permanently released to Nahas as he needed to travel monthly for medical attendance.
But Magistrate Mwale guided that the defence would be making the applications to have Nahas’ passport released as and when need arises.
He then directed DEC to release the passport to Nahas but said the accused should surrender it upon his return.
“Considering that accused number one (Nahas) has previously been granted a similar application by this court, it is my view that it is in the interest of Justice that the applicant be allowed to access medical attention in Lebanon. In the premises, I hereby allow the application as prayed and order that his passport, which is in the custody of DEC, be released to him to allow him to travel on condition that he surrenders it back to DEC upon his return on March 15,” magistrate Mwale ruled and adjourned the matter to March 18 for trial.