Lawyers representing Housing and Infrastructure Development minister Ronald Chitotela in the matter he is accused of concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime, have asked the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court to acquit him.
The defence have submitted that the prosecution’s evidence had been so discredited during cross examination that even if Chitotela was to remain silent, the court would not be able to convict him.
In this case, it is alleged in one of the counts that Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited, between July 3, 2016 and October 30, last year in Lusaka, concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
It is further alleged that the trio between the same dates concealed part of subdivision A lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
On June 7, this year, the State closed its case after calling 21 witnesses and magistrate David Simusamba set July 8, this year, as date for ruling on whether Chitotela and the others have a case to answer.
However, the court has reserved its ruling to Thursday this week as it was not ready yesterday.
In the final submissions for no case to answer filed on June 14, Chitotela’s lawyers from Messers Noel Simwanza Legal Practitioners and Messrs Makebi Zulu Advocates submitted that at the time the fist witness, Mary Lubinga claimed to have met Chitotela to discuss the price of her property in Makeni, Chitotela was not a deputy minister, neither was he in Lusaka at the time.
The lawyers added that Chitotela had at the time gone to conduct campaigns in his constituency, the fact which remained undisputed on record.
The lawyers submitted that it was clear that Lubinga had issues with Chitotela’s wife hence the motive for her to point at Chitotela as the one who bought the house.
They further submitted that the ACC investigations officer Gift Tembo had been categorical in his testimony when he stated that the offence that was committed by Chitotela was not known, adding that there was no offence of bribery and corruption as per the witness’ testimony.
The defence further submitted that the investigations by ACC investigations officer Christopher Siwakwi was lacking in many aspects such that if he had been prudent, he would have come to the conclusion that Chitotela was no where near the two properties.
“The witness could not also prove that Chitotela had possession of the properties listed in the charge and only kept on saying he had control of the properties through his wife, a fact which he could not prove or an allegation he could not substantiate,” they submitted.
The defence stated that Siwakwi did not interview China Harbour Engineering Limited, an organisation at the center of the amount said to be “suspected proceeds of crime”.
They further submitted that Siwakwi alleged that the property in Ibex Hill was bought from Austin Liato, but did not bring the said Liato nor contract showing the transaction, instead went to pick a garden boy to testify.
“Put simply, the witness was selective in bringing evidence to court. The arresting officer did not interview China Habour, the company that is said to have sent US$300,000 which is suspected to be proceeds of crime. He did not bring Mr Austine Chisangu Liato to court who was the seller of the property in Ibex Hill when he had the opportunity to bring such a witness,” the lawyers submitted.
The defence stated that from all 21 witnesses, no one pointed to how the properties in the matter were concealed.
Chitotela’s lawyers prayed that their client was acquitted at this stage and set at liberty, saying it was clear that the evidence laid by the prosecution had not proved the charge preferred against Chitotela.
They further submitted that the prosecution’s evidence had been so discredited that even if Chitotela was to remain silent, the court would not be able to convict him.