Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Reyneck Matemba, Monday tussled with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary General, Gresselder Jeffrey, in a case where the politician and three others are demanding claims from government in billions of kwacha.The four want government to compensate them for loss of business, malicious prosecution and defamation, among others, after they were acquitted by the High Court on charges of stealing public funds during the Bakili Muluzi administration.The court started rehearing the claim case in January this year after the ACB had appealed for the same following its initial defence which had apparently been messy. Monday, Matemba cross-examined Jeffrey and three others with the DPP boss getting emotional on several occasions, arguing she and her family were tortured after her arrest and seizure of property in 2000.She told the court that she was traumatised after the arrest which happened when she was also lactating and that her children who were in good private schools were forced to relocate somewhere now”.
Matemba questioned the plaintiff’s malicious prosecution and false imprisonment claim on the basis that both the High Court and the Supreme Court had thrown out her challenge that her property should not be seized and frozen.
Citing a Supreme Court judgement on the case, the ACB boss observed that the court had found that Jeffrey had the tendency of opening bank accounts in different names such that her argument that some of the property that had been seized or frozen belonged to third parties did not hold.
Matemba also dismissed the defamation claim, arguing it was not proper that it should be directed to the ACB when, in fact, it was other officers who had made statements regarding suspected fraudulent activities in the contract which resulted in the arrests.
Meanwhile, the ACB boss has been granted permission to obtain a full version of the audit report that crucified Jeffrey and others and records of the proceedings of the first case—that of corruption—from the court’s Registrar to buttress the graft-busting body’s defence.
“The audit report was exhibited by all the plaintiffs but it was not presented in its full version. They only picked certain parts and relied on that. We need to have the whole report to have a picture of what really transpired in the 1990s for the plaintiffs to go through trial.
“We need to appreciate why the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and the Auditor General concluded that there was fraud and other criminal activities and that the matter should be investigated,” Matemba said.
He added that the complete record of the criminal proceedings of the initial criminal case where the plaintiffs were acquitted in 2010 will allow the court to appreciate the evidence that the ACB presented.
Matemba said: “What was presented in court [for the claim case] is just the judgement which does not give the whole picture of what transpired and the evidence that the ACB brought before the court.”
So far, four witnesses, including Jeffrey herself, have testified in the case. One more is expected to appear before judge Charles Mkandawire today.
An audit report of the year 2000 exposed the alleged scam, but the court acquitted the four accused persons who later sued the government.
The total claims may rise to K70 billion if interests on the initial demands which were made in 2015 are taken into consideration alongside other elements.