FORMER tourism minister Ronald Chitotela has raised a preliminary issue, asking the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court to dismiss the matter he was recently arrested for, arguing that he cannot be tried when there is a settlement agreement he signed with the Anti Corruption Commission.
And Lusaka magistrate Jennipher Bwalya has granted the Pambashe PF member of parliament a K20,000 cash bail and further ordered him to provide two working sureties from reputable organisations.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has also raised a preliminary issue in which they argued that one of the defence lawyers, Andrew Kombe, should recuse himself from the case as he is a potential witness in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Commission says the Restriction Notice issued on Chitotela’s State Lodge property is still in full force as the same has not been varied or reversed by any court.
Chitotela appeared in the Magistrates’ Court on two charges of possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime following the recent arrest by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
In the first count, it is alleged that Chitotela between May 1, 2017 and October 30, 2018 in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together with another person unknown did possess property No. 3270/M, valued at K380,000, property reasonably suspected of being a proceed of crime.
In count two, he is alleged to have between November 3, 2017 and December 5, 2017 in Lusaka, received a total of K500, 000.00 from Veil Construction Limited through RKC Travel and Guide Limited account number 62489001398.
According to a statement issued by the commission, Thursday, Veil Construction was a sub-contractor to China Habour, a company engaged to construct the Kawambwa – Mporokoso Road at a time Chitotela was Minister of Infrastructure.
China Harbour allegedly paid an amount of $300,000 to Veil Construction, and this is the money from which RCK Travel and Tours Guide Limited was paid, and the said money is reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
The Commission says it is also pursuing the directors of Veil Construction in connection with the same matter.
When the matter came up yesterday, Chitotela’s lawyers, Kombe and Benjamin Mwelwa, informed the court that before their client takes plea, they had a PI to raise.
Kombe said the two counts which Chitotela had been charged with were the subject of a consent settlement that was entered into between ACC and Chitotela.
He said the defence was taken aback as to why the ACC would indict the accused person on the same charges where a consent settlement was made.
But ACC prosecutor Martin Mayembe urged the court not to entertain Chitotela’s PI but order for the matter to proceed.
He said Chitotela did not undergo any trial in the matter where a consent agreement was entered as such his application was misplaced and should be dismissed.
Magistrate Bwalya reserved ruling.
At this point, the State applied for Kombe to recuse himself from the matter, saying he was a potential witness in the matter.
The matter comes up on May 18, 2022.
Meanwhile, the Commission says the Restriction Notice issued on Chitotela’s State Lodge property was still in full force as the same had not been varied or reversed by any court.
This is according to a statement issued by ACC Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Timothy Moono, Thursday.
“Mr.Chitotela today appeared in the Lusaka Subordinate Court but could however not take plea as the defence raised a preliminary issue. The defence argued that Mr. Chitotela was previously arrested and charged on the same offences and a settlement agreement was entered into with the Commission and registered in Court. The State objected to the defence application stating that a Setlement Agreement under Section 80(3) cannot operate as a bar to the proceeding before court. The state further argued that Section 138 of the Criminal Procedure Code gives guidance on when an accused person can plead a defence of having been tried before on the same facts and same offences (autrefois acquit). In the previous case, the accused was facing nine counts and in this matter before court he is facing two counts,” read the statement.
“The Commission further wishes to state that the Restriction Notice issued under Section 60 of the Anti-Corruption Act on property number CHONG/LN_21188/51 belonging to Mr. Chitotela is still in full force as the same has not been varied or reversed by any court. Further, that there is an ex-parte order that was issued by the Court on 3rd May 2022 to stay the execution of the Warrant of Seizure on the same property. An inter-party hearing has been set for Monday 9th May 2022.”