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CHITOTELA IMMUNITY IN TROUBLE?

By GRACE CHAILE LESOETSA

After the magistrate who handled Ronald Chitotela’s immunity matter has been moved out of Lusaka, the DPP has now appealed out of time  against the decision to honour cessation of prosecution.

The immunity granted to Ronald Chitotela    and upheld by the magistrate court, may be overturned following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to review the lower court’s decision.

The DPP, Ms Lillian Siyunyi,  has filed to appeal out of time in the matter in which the subordinate court’ cleared former minister   Ronald Chitotela and set aside the warrant of seizure of Bowman Lusambo’s property in separate matters relating to possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime. 

This is according to notices of appeal filed separately in the Economic and Financial Crimes Division of the Lusaka High Court.

On May 18, 2022, then Lusaka Principal Resident Magistrate Jennifer Bwalya cleared former Tourism Minister in the PF regime, Mr Chitotela  in the matter where he was charged with two counts of possession of property number 320/M valued at K380,000 suspected to be proceeds of crime. Magistrate Bwalya said that the immunity granted to Mr Chitotela by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to stop him from prosecution is still in force and proceeding with the matter will be subjecting him to double punishment.

And on May 19, 2022, Lusaka Magistrate Albert Mwaba in his ruling set aside the warrant of seizure which was issued on April 13, 2022 by ACC to take possession of Mr Lusambo’s property located Lusaka’s Chamba Valley area.

However, the DPP challenges the two decisions of the subordinate court.

In her notice of appeal against the discharge of Mr Chitotela, Ms Siyunyi contends that the trial court erred on point of law by discharging the former minister when it held that arraigning the accused after a settlement would amount to double jeopardy before invoking section 277 of the CPC Chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia.

She argues that the lower court misdirected itself to get into the merit of the settlement without giving the prosecution an opportunity notwithstanding that he defence’s submission was anchored on section 138 of the CPC  Chapter 88 of the laws of Zambia.

In the notice of appeal against Mr Lusambo’s ruling of the subordinate court, Ms Siyunyi contends that the trial court erred by holding that both a warrant of seizure and a restriction notice issued under the ACC Act no.3 of 2012 of the laws of Zambia have the same effect.

She argues that the trial court erred when it held that the warrant of seizure was irregularly issued as an affidavit in support was not filed in court as required by law when there is no legal requirement for a warrant to be supported by an affidavit under Zambian law.

The said the court also misdirected itself in law by having recourse to the subordinate court (civil jurisdication) rules, Chapter 28 of the Zambian laws when warrants for purposes of criminal investigations are governed by the CPC Chapter 88 of the Republican laws.

Ms Siyunyi adds that the court erred in in law when it pronounced itself on the particulars of the warrant of seizure when the ACC had moved the court on two specific grounds for setting aside the warrant of seizure which specific grounds did not challenge the warrant fr being defective in a material particular.

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