FIVE people have appeared in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court for allegedly stealing over K19 million belonging to Zambia National Commercial Bank two years ago.

The five have, however, denied the charges against them.

In this matter, Bruce Enerst, 40, of Lilayi; Lombe Bwalya businessman of Mpimpa extension in Kabwe; Josephine Chewe of Salama Park; Marvin Phiri, also a businessman and Charles Ofegba Appiah are charged with one count of theft and another count of unauthorized access to, interception of or interference with data.

In count one, it is alleged that Enerst, Bwalya, Chewe, Phiri and Appiah on dates unknown but between October 1, 2018 and November 30, 2018 in Lusaka, stole K19,285,015.50 cash belonging to ZANACO.

In count two, it is alleged that the five on the same dates intentionally, without permission or authority accessed critical database necessary for or incidental to the provision of the essential service of banking resulting in the loss of K19,285,015.50, the property of ZANACO.

When the matter came up for plea before Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale, Monday, the five accused persons who are on police bond, pleaded not guilty to the charges after they were read to them.

At this point, the State suggested that the matter comes up on February 8, 2021 for commencement of trial but defence Lawyer Christopher Mundia opposed to the application.

Mundia said the accused persons were first arrested and charged with theft in November 2018 and were only appearing in court now.

He added that it was unacceptable that the accused should wait another two months so that they could be heard.

Mundia added that when a person was charged with a criminal offence, it was believed that the State had evidence and was ready to proceed with trial.

He also said the accused persons were entitled to a speedy and fair trial and that if the court grants an adjournment, it should be for a short period.

In his ruling, Magistrate Mwale adjourned the matter to December 21, this year.