The Economic and Financial Crimes Division of the High Court in Lusaka has set aside the Ruling of Hon. Magistrate J. Bwalya which discharged Hon. Ronald Chitotela on the basis that the Anti-Corruption Commission had made an undertaking not to institute criminal proceedings against him by way of a purported Settlement Agreement.
The High Court reasoned that the Defence misconstrued the meaning of Section 80 of the Anti-Corruption Act as the said Section does not apply where criminal proceedings had already been instituted. The Court found that at the time of the purported undertaking not to institute criminal proceedings against Hon. Chitotela by way of a Settlement Agreement, criminal proceedings had actually already been instituted against him.
The judgment was a unanimous decision of a panel of three judges comprising: Justices E. Musona; S. Wanjelani and C. Zulu.
In delivering the Judgement on behalf of the panel, Honourable Justice E. Musona said the undertaking in question through the purported Settlement Agreement was futile as criminal proceedings against Hon. Chitotela had already been instituted.
The Court has referred the matter back to the Subordinate Court to commence afresh the criminal proceedings against Hon. Chitotela but before a different Magistrate.
In this matter the Commission arrested Hon. Chitotela in 2019 on nine counts of concealment of property and possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. The matter could not, however proceed as a Settlement Agreement was entered into by the Commission under Section 80 (3) of the Anti-Corruption Act. The Commission later reviewed the matter and found that the Settlement Agreement or undertaking was lacking in fulfilling the requirements of the law and re-arrest Hon. Chitotela on two counts of possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Hon. Chitotela contested the arrest before court on grounds that he could not be tried again over the same matter on which he had an undertaking with the Commission. Hon. Magistrate Jennifer Bwalya who presided over the matter delivered her Ruling in which she discharged Hon. Chitotela.
Being dissatisfied with the outcome, the Commission appealed to the High Court requesting the court to set aside the purported out of court settlement that was entered into between the Commission and Ronald Chitotela.