Malawi: Court Quashes Warrant Which Led to Arrest of Mpinganjira – ACB Says ‘Strange Legal Practice’

A Magistrate Court in Zomba on Wednesday late night quashed an arrest warrant obtained by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from Lilongwe Magistrate Court against prominent businessman Thomson Mpinganjira, owner of FDH Bank over allegations he tried to bribe judges hearing a legal challenge to the re-election of President Peter Mutharika.

Mpinganjira released from custody and warrant of arrest has been declared by court as void Matemba: Legally disgusting

Mpinganjira, through his lawyer Frank Mbeta sought a court order quashing the warrant of arrest and the court ruled the warrant was void but does not specify the reason for the decision.

ACB head Reyneck Matemba expressed shock with the way bureau’s warrant of arrest has been rendered void by mid night court session, saying it is legally disgusting.

Thom Mpinganjira

Matemba said he was “speechless” with what he called a very strange legal practice for a court to cancel a warrant of arrest issued by another court and also order release of a suspect in police custody when ACB as a law enforcing agency was acting on a serious complaint.

The court order bears no name of a Magistrate but it is signed and was obtained by lawyers from Mbeta’s legal firm Ritz Law Firm.

“This is legally disgusting. Abuse of court process and it exposes how rotten the judiciary is,” said Matemba.

He said at around 12:05 midnight he was phone by Chipliro Mpinganjira , a deputy minister of defence and one of the lawyers representing the banker. Around the same time the acting Inspector General of police Duncan Mwapasa also phoned about the order which served on police .

Mpinganjira was expected to appear before the court Thursday morning to take plea and be charged following his arrest on Wednesday.

He is a key suspect in the investigations into claims by Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda that bribes had been offered to the five judges presiding over the case.

Social and governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the release of Mpinganjira on bail will be received with mixed reaction by the members of the public who expected him to spend sometime in police cell especially considering a background where opposition leaders or critics of government have spent at least a night in policy custody.

“While Mpinganjira has a right to bail, the timing and his connections to the ruling party will raise suspicion by the public that perhaps the whole arrest of Mpinganjira was a well crafted tactic between ACB and some judicial officials to cool down the public pressure that something was being down when in actual fact it was just window dressing,” said Munthali.

“The midnight court bail would also reflect badly on the integrity of the judiciary especially when the timing of such a bail was granted and the sensitivity of the allegations. Already ACB director has not minced words against the judiciary on the matter.

“But then looking at the broader picture whether bail or no bail the very fact that the name of one of the two suspects has been disclosed and that such an individual is closely linked to the ruling party it would reflect badly on one of the accussed parties in the election case,” said Munthali.

The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the election challenge sometime between January 27 and February 3, its spokeswoman Agnes Patemba.