FORMER Ministry of Health human resources officer Henry Kapoko and eight others have been acquitted of 21 counts of corrupt activities involving over K4 million allegedly stolen using Royal College of Business and Management of Lusaka.
The Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has, however, convicted and sentenced to three years simple imprisonment the proprietor of Royal College of Business and Management Valenta Nkhata for receiving and withdrawing over K4 million meant for the workshop of Ministry of Health staff, which did not take place.
Deputy director of commercial court Sharon Newa, sitting as magistrate, acquitted Mr Kapoko and eight others in Lusaka on Friday after establishing that the prosecution had failed to prove charges of theft, theft by public servant and money laundering beyond reasonable doubt.
Mrs Newa started reading the judgement, which had only an hour break from 13:00 hours to 14:00 hours, at 09:30 hours and ended at 22:10 on Friday. This is a record-breaking judgement as it is the longest ever in the history of the judiciary to last about 13 hours.
“The evidence before the court shows that the accused persons did not personally benefit from the money paid to Royal College. I find that there is insufficient evidence to link the accused to the said money and draw an inference upon which to convict them. I, therefore, find them not guilty and I acquit them forthwith accordingly,” she said.
Mr Kapoko was jointly charged with Nobert Peleti (assistant director-administration), Evaristo Musaba (chief accountant), Chrispine Sichone (director of health policy) and Zukas Kaoma (principal accountant) all employees of the Ministry of Health.
Others are Enala Phiri (assistant accountant), Vincent Luhana (senior accountant), Christopher Bwalya (assistant internal auditor), all employees of the Ministry of Health, and Ms Nkhata’s daughter, Abigail.
Mrs Newa discharged Abigail after convicting her because she did directly benefit from the K4 million which was deposited into the Royal College account.
Abigail and her mother were jointly charged with eight counts of theft and Ms Nkhata was also charged separately with four counts of money laundering.
“I do take notice that the evidence on record does not reflect that accused number 10 [Abigail] in her conduct personally benefited from the theft. On that basis, I absolutely discharge her from all the counts which she was facing,” she said.
When sentencing Ms Nkhata, Mrs Newa said she had taken note of the mitigation by her lawyer, Marshal Muchende, but the offences the business woman committed were very serious and she could not go unpunished.
She said Ms Nkhata’s confession statement to the police that she received the money from the Ministry of Health deposited into the college’s account and later withdrew it to give some to Mr Kapoko did not carry any weight because she did not implicate him as she decided to remain mute when she was placed on defence.
Mrs Newa sentenced Ms Nkhata for charges of theft to 18 months in count nine, 24 months in counts 10 and 11, 30 months in counts 12 and 13 and 36 months in counts 14, 15 and 16 all simple imprisonment and the sentences are to run concurrently.
She, however, fined Ms Nkhata K20,000 for money laundering charges in counts 18, 19, 20 and 21 to be paid immediately or serve a six-month simple imprisonment in default.
Mrs Newa further ordered that Ms Nkhata’s farm, located in Lusaka West, Toyota Kluger and Mercedes Benz cars she bought as a result of proceeds of crime be forfeited to the State.
She gave Ms Nkhata 14 days in which to appeal to the High Court if she is not satisfied with the judgement.
In mitigation, Mr Muchende, on behalf of Ms Nkhata and her daughter, submitted that the court exercise lenience on the duo because they are first offenders who have learnt a lesson and would not repeat the acts of crime.
He said their confession to the police is an indication that they are honest citizens who did not waste the prosecution’s time.
Mr Muchende said the two are mothers and active participants in church services and in particular Ms Nkhata is a leader in a community church in Chelston’s Seventh Day Adventist and giving her a custodial sentence would be a blow to her esteem.
He said Ms Nkhata is diabetic and has high blood pressure and thus deserves a lighter sentence which will allow her to reflect.
Mr Kapoko and several officials from the Ministry of Health were arrested in 2009 by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for alleged theft of over K10 million.
Zambia Daily Mail