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Court discharges Ronald Chitolela

By LUCY PHIRI

The Lusaka Magistrate Court yesterday discharged former Tourism Minister, Ronald Chitotela, in the matter he is charged with two counts of possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

In her ruling on two applications made by the State and the defence, Principal Magistrate Jennifer Bwalya said there was no evidence that plea was not taken and facts established are that the whole process of acquittal passed through the court.

Magistrate Bwalya also ruled that the immunity which was granted was still in force and proceeding with the same case will subject him to double jeopardy.

She said Chitotela cannot be prosecuted twice because there is proof and evidence that his matter passed through the Chief Resident Magistrate and documents were stamped.

“I have also taken note of the date stamp of the Chief Resident magistrate of the process taken,” she said.

“I therefore discharge the accused person in all counts,” Ms Bwalya said.

Previously, lawyers representing Chitotela, Mr Andrew Kombe and Mr Benjamin Mwelwa submitted that their client cannot be tried twice on the same allegations he was charged with.

They said the matter should be dismissed as there was proof that the whole process was done before the court.

The state objected to the matter saying the accused never took plea, and never appeared before any court and trial never took place claiming it was just mere allocation.

Allegations in the first count are that Chitotela possessed a property valued at K380, 000 believed to be proceeds of crime, while in the second count, he is accused of receiving K500, 000 from Veil Construction Limited through RKC Travel and Guide Limited, monies alleged of being proceeds of crime. 

Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission will appeal the court’s ruling.

ACC spokesperson Queen Chibwe said while they respected the decision of the court to hold that the accused person was immune from being prosecuted based on a settlement agreement he signed with ACC in 2019, it was not happy with the decision.

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