BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—The High Court in Zomba has yesterday acquitted former Agriculture Minister George Chaponda in all three counts he was answering in an appeal case by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Chaponda, who is a legislator for Mulanje South West, was arrested on July 19, 2017; five months after President Peter Mutharika fired him from cabinet as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development due to public pressure on his alleged role in the controversial procurement of maize from Zambia.
In 2018 Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotha acquitted Chaponda on all charges which include giving false information to Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), influencing a public officer to misuse his position and possession of foreign currency, but the ACB challenged the ruling in the High Court.
But in a ruling on Tuesday, Zomba High Court Judge Redson Kapindu upheld the judgment of the lower court after trashing all evidence presented by the graft-busting body in support of the counts, arguing they lacked elements of corruption.
Kapindu said the ACB’s grounds of appeal were “not valid.”
He also pointed out that the prosecution failed to prove that the foreign currency that was found in Chaponda’s house was connected to Maize-gate.
Between US$58,000 and MK124 million in cash stashed inside suitcases was found after a search at Chaponda’s home following investigations in the procurement of maize from Zambia.
But the court ordered Reserve Bank of Malawi to give back the money after the former minister applied to court that the money should be given back as it had not been proved to be proceeds of illicit activities or money laundering.
Chaponda justified why he is cash-rich, saying he has worked for the United Nations (UN) for over 20 years and has his own investments.
The former cabinet minister also submitted his assets declaration form to ACB which indicates he hold many bank accounts in foreign countries where he worked for UN.
A list of assets Chaponda declared as of February 1, 2017 shows that he has 20 real estate properties in Lilongwe, Blantyre, France, Luchenza, Mangochi, Thyolo and Chiradzulu.
According to Chaponda’s declaration, the source of funds for the property, valued at MK853 million, included bank loans and his earnings from the UN, United Kingdom, South Africa, France and his children abroad and Chaponda investments.