By Senior Business Reporter
The Ntcheu Senior Resident Magistrate Court has convicted and sentenced a young couple, Shavison Chibayo and Karishma Machewere to serve custodial sentences or pay fines amounting to K3.7 million for being found guilty for producing ‘fake Malawi Gin’ whose original patent is owned by Castel Malawi.
The two were arrested in October last year at Tsangano turn off trading in Ntcheu. They were charged with three counts of Sale of goods in bottles marked with owner’s name contrary to section 18 of the Merchandise Act, counterfeiting a trademark contrary to section 388 (1) (b) of the penal code, and false application of a trademark contrary to section (51) (1) (a) of the Trademarks Act.
They pleaded guilty to all the three charges after being found with 23 bottles of 750ml Malawi Gin, food colours, and four drums of Ethanol.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Senior Resident Magistrate Joshua Nkhono slapped Chibayo with a K2 million fine or in default serve 36 months in jail on the third count and K70,000 fine or in default serve four months in jail on the first count and a 12-month custodial sentence but suspended to 24 months on the second count.
The court also sentenced Chibayo’s wife, Machewere, to pay K1.5 million or in default serve 24 months in jail on the third count and another K70,000 fine or in default serve four months in jail on the first count and six months custodial sentence but suspended to 24 months on the second count.
Magistrate Nkhono ordered that the fines should be paid within seven days ‘after which the default sentence will take effect from the date of the pronouncement on October 17, 2023.’
Before sentencing, the convicts prayed for leniency as they were first time offenders and that they were young, with young children at home who depended on them.
The prosecution which comprised of Ntcheu Police Prosecutor Kambalame and two private lawyers Noel Misanjo and Davis Njobvu from DNC Chambers, argued that the conduct of the two was a health hazard to the consumers after tests by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS), and Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS) concluded that the product was counterfeit.
They also told the court that Castel Malawi had lost K7 million business because of the couple’s conduct.
Castel Malawi Head of Legal, Compliance and Company Secretary Chipi Kauka warned the perpetrators that the long arm of the law will catch up with them.
“We will deal with any person producing Castel Malawi counterfeit products. We are closely working with law enforcement agencies to identify those producing, selling or distributing these fake products. Anyone caught will face legal action. We urge the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious Castel Malawi products to the authorities. This will help us maintain the trust and quality that Castel Malawi stands for,” said Kauka.
Castel Malawi Human Resource and Corporate Affairs Director, Gloria Zimba said the sentence serves as a good deterrent to others in similar businesses.
“We were able to apprehend this couple through some two well-wishers who were rewarded MK1 million each for the tip which was successfully investigated. We thank our courts and our Malawi Police who worked relentlessly to successfully close this case,” said Zimba.