FORMER Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo and his wife Nancy have asked the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court to refer their case to the High Court for determination on whether or not the designation of the subordinate court as the Economic and Financial Crimes Court was in conformity with Article 11 (a) of the Constitution.
The couple argues that it’s discriminatory to set up a court like the Economic and Financial Crimes Court for a certain class of people while others were allocated to any other court.
This is a matter in which Lusambo and his wife are charged with 10 counts of corrupt acquisition of public property, possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime, tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud.
Lusambo is facing all the 10 charges, while his wife is only facing four.
The couple pleaded not guilty on Wednesday before Lusaka magistrate Faides Hamaundu, who is one of the magistrates handling economic and financial crimes.
However, when the matter came up for commencement of trial before magistrate Hamaundu, Thursday, the accused persons, through their defence lawyers Makebi Zulu and Jonas Zimba, asked the court to refer the matter to the High Court for determination of Constitutional issues.
Zulu and Zimba argued that any person charged with a crime was equal to the other and presumed innocent until found guilty.
They argued that it was therefore discriminatory to set up a court such as the Economic and Financial Crimes court for a certain class of people while others were allocated to any other court.
Zulu said the allocation of the matter to the special court made it look like the accused person had already been found guilty of being a criminal and hence allocating the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Court.
And Zimba said the question to be determined by the High Court was a noble one as it would answer questions as to why the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Court and why his clients’ case had been allocated to the said court.
However, the State objected to the defence’s application and urged magistrate Hamaundu to dismiss it.
State prosecutor Daniel Ngwira said the defence had not met the conditions required for the matter to be referred to the High Court under Article 28 (2) and 11 (a) of the Constitution.
He said under Article 28 (2), the only time a court (Subordinate Court) may refer a matter to the High Court was where it was being alleged that any provision of Article 11 to 26 had been violated.
Ngwira said the defence in the matter had not revealed that any of the above Articles have been violated.
“In any case, Article 11 which guarantees due protection of the law has not been violated because matters tried under this court ought to be tried in conformity with the criminal procedure code (CPC). It is our submission that the application is frivolous and vexatious and as such should not be granted,” he submitted.
Another State Prosecutor, Martin Mayembe, urged the court to dismiss the application and allow the matter to proceed to trial, saying the Economic and Financial Crimes court was established by the power vested in the Chief Justice by the Constitution to handle appeal cases.
Magistrate Hamaundu reserved ruling to April 12, 2022.