By CHINTU MALAMBO
THE Lusaka High Court has upheld the conviction slapped on former Ministry of Health Chief Human Resource Development Officer, Henry Kapoko and two others for theft by public servant and money laundering involving K6.8 million.
However, the convicts will only serve nine years on both counts instead of the initial 18 years. This follows the High Court’s decision to quash the Magistrate’s mode of sentencing from consecutively to concurrently
Judge Mathew Chisunka sitting with two other judges has also upheld the decision by Magistrate Exnobert Zulu ordering the convicts to pay back the K6.8 million.
Meanwhile, the court has set free Justine Phiri, an internal auditor and Vincent Luhana, an accountant, after finding that the offence of theft by public servant had not been proved against them.
The High Court found that the two were merely acting on instructions from their superiors and despite being negligent, their actions could not be said to amount to theft by public servant or money laundering.
The two were therefore, acquitted of the offences laid against them and the convictions were quashed.
For Kapoko, Zukas Kaoma, a former acting principal accountant and Evaristo Musaba, a former chief accountant, the court found that their grounds of appeal failed because the prosecution proved its case against them.
In quashing the mode of sentence, the judges said that the mode of sentencing passed by the Magistrate came with a sense of shock to them because it was not the right principle to order that the sentences run consecutively.
“We quash the mode for sentencing to run consecutively instead of concurrent. The sentencing came to us with a sense of shock because the correct principle is that they should run concurrently,” Justice Chisunka said.
The court said the lower court could not be faulted for imposing a custodial sentence instead of a fine as there were aggravating circumstances, considering that there was commercial gain from the theft through the proceeds of crime.
Justice Chisunka said the grand theft by the trio led to the donors pulling out, with the vulnerable not accessing proper medical care.
In this matter, Kapoko and five others were facing 20 counts of theft by public servant involving over K6.8 million.
The suspects were also facing 49 counts of money laundering involving 24 vehicles, two lodges, three houses, a filling station and several bank accounts, among other things.
Magistrate Zulu found them guilty and sentenced them to nine years imprisonment on each of the two counts but the five being dissatisfied, appealed to the High Court.
By CHINTU MALAMBO