Businessman Zameer Karim and his lawyers on Thursday turned up at Lilongwe magistrates court at the start of the hearing of the infamous K2.7 billion police food rations case only to be told the hearing could not take place because the presiding magistrate was away for a workshop.
Karim (2nd r) with symapthisers at the court
The magistrate was supposed to commit the case to the High Court.
The absence of the court official did not please the graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Reyneck Matemba who is prosecuting the case.
"People always blame the ACB for delaying cases. We came here on time, the prosecution lawyers came on time, the defendants' lawyers came here on time. We have waited here for one hour before we were told that the magistrate was not available," said Matemba, sounding disappointed.
He said the court would have advised the prosecution team and the defendants that the magistrate would not be available for hearing.
Matemba said the ACB wants the case to be heard as fast as possible.
Karim, who is a top financier of theruling Democrtaic Progressive Party (DPP0, is answering charges of theft of public money in a K2.7 billion police food rations deal.
He was arrested along with two Malawi police officers; commissioner Innocent Botomani and senior superintendent Grant Kachingwe in relation to the US$3.9 million contract to supply food rations to the police.
A leaked ACB report says the interdicted head of finance at police, Botomani, and Karim had connived to award Pioneer Investments of Karim a contract to provide 500, 000 food ration packs.
Days after the contract was signed, Pioneer Investment allegedly asked for a change to the agreed price from K2.3 billion to K2.7 billion, the report says the change was fraudulently approved by Botomani.
When Karim was paid for supplying the food ration packs in 2016, he deposited K145 million into a DPP bank account whose sole signatory is President Peter Mutharika.
Following a public outcry over the vast donation, the party was forced to return it - but an ACB probe subsequently cleared Mutharika of personal wrongdoing.
After facing criticism for the decision, ACB boss Matemba later said it was his right to discontinue investigations in the absence of incriminating evidence.
Karim previously hit the headlines when it was revealed in July that he donated five vehicles worth a total of $115,000 to Mutharika who then registered them in his own name, according to published reports.