Anti-Corruption Bureau probing the Judiciary over Manyungwa warrant of arrest

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing the Judiciary over last week’s leakage of a warrant of arrest for Malawi’s High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa, which was cancelled under questionable circumstances.

In a written response to The Nation questionnaire, ACB director Alex Nampota has said the bureau is carrying out an investigation to ascertain the circumstances that led to the leakage of the warrant.

Nampota said warrants are obtained from the court in terms of Section 15 of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) in confidentially in the magistrate’s chambers; hence, the ACB does not expect them to be leaked to the accused persons.

Said Nampota: "The revocation of the warrant of arrest is a major setback in the whole investigation process. It is the first time in the lifetime of the bureau that this has happened. The circumstances surrounding the revocation are still not clear to the bureau up to now. We are taking steps to establish what happened.

"We are currently invoking the High Court’s supervisory powers under Section 360 of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Code for the High Court to rectify the irregularity and bring into existence circumstances that would pave a constitutional way to record a ‘warn and caution’ statement from the judge.”

Manyungwa escaped an arrest on December 9 2011 when his warrant of arrest was cancelled hours after it was granted by Blantyre magistrate Diana Mangwana. The ACB is on record to have said the cancellation was done without its knowledge.

Supreme Court and High Court deputy registrar Mike Tembo yesterday said he did not have information on the ACB probe of the Judiciary; hence, he would not comment.

Manyungwa and his lawyer, Frank Mbeta, were not available for comment on the development.

In his response, Nampota said Manyungwa’s arrest was also being executed pursuant to Section 15 of the CPA which empowers the bureau to effect an arrest if it reasonably suspects that an offence has been committed.

He said the arrest is done to enable the bureau to record a ‘warn and caution’ statement from the judge; and to secure the normal bond any arrested person is supposed to execute.

"In terms of provisions of Section 42 (1) and (2) of the Malawi Constitution, the pre-condition for recording a warn and caution statement is the existence of a detention. The revocation of the warrant operated to remove the very basis upon which a warn and caution statement could have been recorded.

"It would have been an illegal warn and caution statement had the bureau proceeded to obtain the same. It would equally be illegal to detain the judge without a warrant," said Nampota.

Manyungwa reportedly surrendered himself to the bureau on December 12 2011 but was turned back after Mangwana ordered him so in her cancellation of the warrant. The ACB is also on record to have been taken by surprise at the surrender despite the warrant of arrest.

The ACB has been probing Manyungwa over a ruling he made on a 2004 case, Civil Cause No. 2158 of 2004, which was presided over by another judge, Maclean Kamwambe.

The letter of complaint addressed to the ACB director from a concerned Malawian alleged that Manyungwa prepared judgement on the matter in which Samitha Kulasinghe, through Savjani and Company, commenced legal action against Fargo Limited in the High Court.

Manyungwa allegedly delivered a judgement in favour of Fargo while Kamwambe delivered his own in favour of the complainant.

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