LILONGWE (Edwin Mauluka, Malawi NewsNow) -Convict in the infamous Cash-gate scandal, Angela Katengeza has prayed for a suspended sentence citing her health problems.
Through lawyer, Gilbert Khonyongwa, told Judge Fiona Mwale on Thursday that Katengeza has heart problem and Hypertension, therefore custodial sentence will lead to deterioration of her health given poor condition in Malawi prisons.
Katengeza is answering theft and money laundering amounting to K105 million after the Baker Tilly forensic audit report revealed her Faith Construction Company was one of the companies that were dubiously paid by Government in 2013 without rendering any service.
The case resumed on Thursday at Lilongwe High Court for oral submissions on sentencing where the State objected the defense application by requesting court to apply custodial sentence because medical arrangements will be made while she is in prison. It also acknowledged to have taken note of the medical report on heart problem and not hypertension.
“We do not believe that that should compel the court to give her non-custodial sentence” observed state prosecutor, Reyneck Matemba while acknowledging that her health condition may have advantage to her when it comes to sentencing
The state application underlined that the court must “be cautious” on setting precedence to would be offenders who may in future use health condition as a tool to escape punishments like custodial sentence.
Matemba added that money laundering is a very serious offence and Katengeza should face custodial sentence just like other convicts who committed same cashgate offence and are now serving custodial sentences.
Katengeza who told court last year that she is a pastor maintains her no guilty plea saying she unknowingly got herself into the scam after Leonard Kalonga former Deputy Director at then Ministry of Tourism borrowed her company certificate.
According to her, she innocently lent out her company certificate to Mr. Kalonga who wanted to use her company name in getting ‘construction projects that were available at his office’ but due to working conditions he could not have used his own company certificate.
Katengeza said was promised to receive a percentage for lending out her certificate and she did not know that he could use it to defraud Government.
Court found her guilty and was convicted for theft and money laundering.
During submissions on Thursday, State, conceded defense application for leniency on the fact that Katengeza got only K3 million from the K105 million deal since the arrangement was to pay her for lending out her company certificate.
As well state acknowledged and conceded defense submission on cooperation shown by Katengeza throughout the case. On this, State said the convict played a very significant role of giving new information to State which lead to self guilty plea of Leonard Kalonga, of which Kalonga was identified as a person who recruited 17 companies that were involved in the scam.
Matemba said “if it were not for Angela Katengeza decision to testify” by giving information on how she got herself into the scam “Mr. Leonard Kalonga would have not changed” from no guilty to plea of guilty.
“Her decision to tell her story totally changed trial of Leonard Kalonga” said Matemba adding that this may work to her advantage on sentencing
But, the state disagreed with the defense that her cooperation was a sign of remorse. State indicated that it believes that Katengeza has never shown sign of remorse by maintaining plea of not guilty and distancing herself to the criminal activity which she participated knowingly.
The state also asked court not to consider Katengeza as a responsible person for her family, a person with good character, and that has lost her business following the case.
“She doesn’t have good character as both pastor and block leader” ruled out Matemba adding a responsible person would have realised that it was a criminal activity and she was supposed not to take part,
Matemba also said her conduct does not show that she is “honesty” person that her honesty ended the moment she accepted to participate in a crime of defrauding Government.
Further, responding to defense complaint about the lengthy period of the trial, Matemba said “none of us have control over that and it is a natural consequence of indulging in criminal activity.”
In their submission, the defense have among other things said Katengeza is a first time offender who had no intention to participate in the scam as she had no plans at all to steal from Government and that she was exploited and used by being dragged in the criminal activity.
“She did not know for example that lending company certificate to fellow contractor was unlawful,” added counsel Khonyongwa in the submission.
Court has adjourned and will set new date in two weeks time for judgment.