2024-06-14

Opinion: of government’s decision to drop Chilima’s corruption case

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Preamble

The State is expected to discontinue a corruption case against Vice-President Saulos Chilima, according to sources familiar with the matter.

While both Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Masautso Chamkakala and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma refused to comment yesterday, our sources said the DPP was scheduled to submit a certificate of discontinuance to the High Court Financial Crimes division last Friday.

“This was filed last Friday in the evening. I guess even the Judge (Redson Kapindu) has yet to see it. But what is important to note is that the case has been discontinued,” said a highly-placed source who is part of the prosecution team.

The source added: “The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament within the week will also be informed of this decision.”.

*My opinion*

Corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests. It wastes taxes and rates meant for important community projects. This results in poor quality services or infrastructure, or projects never getting off the ground.

Corruption undermines effective governance by disregarding principles of accountability and the rule of law. Bribery and corruption are pervasive issues, and one of the primary reasons for this problem is that those entrusted with safeguarding state resources are often the ones involved in embezzling public funds.

We need to deal with corruption decisively because corruption can cause death, injury, and financial loss to innocent parties. It results in fewer or defective schools, hospitals, roads, and other public services. It is therefore morally wrong.

*Evidence*

If you are bringing a legal case, a higher level of evidence is needed to persuade a court, an investigative or an administrative authority that a corrupt act has occurred, and it was committed by the individual or body you say was responsible.

Evidence refers to information or objects that may be admitted into court for judges and juries to consider when hearing a case. Evidence can come from varied sources from genetic material or trace chemicals ​to dental history or fingerprints.

The role of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigation team is to investigate corruption issues and gather information to prove or disprove them. They should do this by interviewing witnesses, obtaining documents and records, analyzing information, and interviewing persons of interest.

Bank records, accounting records, legal documents, or instruments are normally the basis for the case. They may very well prove the circumstances around the alleged offense, but they may not necessarily provide all the essential elements of the criminal charge, eg. the intention of the subject.

Normally, before documentary evidence is admissible as evidence, it must be proved by other evidence from a witness that the document is genuine, called “laying a foundation”. As a general rule of evidence, a document shall be proved by primary evidence that is document itself.

Insufficient evidence is the evidence that fails to meet the burden of proof and is inadequate to prove a fact. In a trial, if the prosecution finishes presenting their case and the judge finds they have not met their burden of proof, the judge may dismiss the case (even before the defense presents their side) for insufficient evidence. For example, in criminal cases, the burden is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and failure to meet the burden results in insufficient evidence. Insufficient evidence may even be grounds for appeal.

I’m made to think that the government has failed to meet the burden of proof and has inadequate evidence to prove the fact that Saulos Chilima is guilty of corruption. Therefore, Vice President Chilima is entitled to appeal or sue the government for defamation of character or character assassination.

*What happens if there is not enough evidence to convict?*

If there is not sufficient evidence to prove the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant is found not guilty. It is not the job of the jury or the court to search for other crimes the defendant could be guilty of. It is the job of the prosecutor to make a correct charging decision.

In a trial, if the prosecution finishes presenting their case and the judge finds they have not met their burden of proof, the judge may dismiss the case (even before the defense presents their side) for insufficient evidence.

What is Insufficient Evidence? A finding (decision) by a trial judge or an appeals court that, as a matter of law, the case must be dismissed due to a lack of sufficient evidence presented by the plaintiff or prosecutor, which has not met the required standard of proof in such a proceeding.

It is the prosecutor who needs evidence. The prosecutor will not charge the person without evidence. Sometimes that means that the police will arrest someone and then have to let that person go free if the prosecutor will not press charges at that point.

I want to agree that this high-profile corruption case has been dropped and won’t proceed because, mainly, the President and almost his entire cabinet are involved.

On a different level of trying to understand this matter, I’m made to contemplate that the government knew right from the beginning that they did not have any evidence against the Vice President but they decided to proceed with the case because it’s easily politically motivated. They wanted to finish Chilima politically but it has finally backfired today.

On another account of understanding this scenario, the decision against the Vice President was out of error. They advised each other poorly on this issue but the government will surely pay the price, unfortunately, Malawians are the ones who are going to pay the price heavily as any compensation of this nature comes from taxpayers’ money.

In my last understanding of this matter, I think the government knew they had a script for this drama. The government knew they were just playing a mind game with Malawians against the Vice President and it was just another way of siphoning money from government coffers through compensation which is likely to be a colossal sum to be paid out soon. This is very disappointing that the government continues to make mistakes such as this one. It could have been avoided right from the beginning.

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