4 December 2012

Zambia: Banda, LOCCI Case - Sakwiba Steps Aside

Photo: Zambia State House.
President Michael Sata.

LUSAKA lawyer, Sakwiba Sikota yesterday withdrew from representing former Republican President Rupiah Banda's son, Andrew in a corruption case citing conflict of interest.

Banda has since asked the court to accord him enough time to organise resources and engage another lawyer going by the turn of events.

Mr Sikota, who was scheduled to cross-examine business executive Antonello Locci, now turned into a State witness, said he found it "very difficult" to continue representing Banda and at the same time, cross-examine Mr Locci his former client.

Lusaka chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda is presiding over the matter.

This is in a matter in which Banda is charged with one count of gratification for giving assistance on contracts.

Banda, who was at the time First Secretary at the Zambian Embassy in Italy and later Deputy High Commissioner to India, allegedly solicited and agreed to receive gratification from Mr Locci amounting to two per cent of all money paid to Fratelli Locci SRI by the Road Development Agency (RDA).

Mr Locci was at the time director at Fratelli Locci SRI, a road civil construction firm and was initially jointly charged with Banda.

"Your honour, I find myself in a difficult situation to continue representing my client (Banda) as this is conflict of interest. The court recalls what I said at the last sitting that the standing witness (Mr Locci) was my client before.

"I have discussed with Mr Banda and I am sure he understands the predicament I find myself in," Mr Sikota said.

Director of Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mutembo Nchito asked the court to hear his response in chambers, saying he did not want to ask the accused person in open court, fearing that he might embarrass him.

"I sympathise with the accused person on the turn of events and that the application raises some concern but before I respond I request that we go into chambers because I don't want to ask the accused questions that might embarrass him," he said.

Mr Locci was turned into a State witness last week after the DPP entered a nolle prosequi and the magistrate subsequently discharged him.

Mr Locci in his testimony told the court that he was forced to sign an agreement by Banda in which he was asked to pay two per cent on all contract payments in Zambia.

Mr Locci's son, Alexandro, a technical director at Fratelli Locci SRI, had earlier testified that he met former President Banda at State House to discuss his company's intention to undertake road construction projects.

Alexandro said Banda organised a meeting which took place at State House.

The matter has been adjourned to tomorrow.

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