The High Court in Lilongwe has sentenced former cabinet minister Uladi Mussa to six years in jail after he was found guilty in a corruption trial linked to the passport case.
Mussa, who served as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security during the two-year tenure of president Joyce Banda between April 2012 and May 2014, was convicted alongside former senior immigration officer David Kwanjana for aiding foreign nationals to enter into the country illegally.
Justice Chifundo Kachale, who is also Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, presided over the case and found Mussa and others guilty and convicted them, passed the sentence on Thursday afternoon.
Mussa, 55, was found guilty of abuse of public office, neglect of duty and altering false documents alongside former regional immigration officer David Kwanjana.
Two other people, who were co-accused in the case, were acquitted.
The charge of abuse of office carries a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment but the judge handed Mussa and Kwanjana a similar sentence of five years imprisonment for being found guilty of abuse of public office and 12 months imprisonment for neglect of official duties. The sentences will run concurrently to mean six years.
Kamudoni Nyasulu, a private prosecutor engaged by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), said the conviction and sentence is setting in place a legal precedent.
Nyasulu, who previously served as Director of Public Prosecutions and has worked for the United Nations special tribunals as a prosecutor, said: "The law requires that a public officer's actions must not be arbitrary, but must follow the law and procedures."
The former minister, who is DPP vice-president (Central Region), was conspicuously grumpy after the sentence.
In July 2019, the United States of America Department of State banned Mussa and his spouse from visiting that country for his "involvement in significant corruption" in what an analysts described as a statement to authorities on fighting corruption.
At the time, Mussa, who had just been appointed president Peter Mutharika's special adviser on parliamentary affairs, said he was surprised with the USA decision because the matter in court was yet to be concluded.
But the US Embassy in Lilongwe justified the decision against Mussa when the case was not concluded, saying the USA had acted "following credible information" that he was involved in significant corruption while serving as a Cabinet minister.
Mussa was arrested in March 2017 on charges of negligence and abuse of office while serving as interim leader of People's Party (PP) in the absence of party president Joyce Banda. He described the arrest at the time as politically-motivated. He later joined DPP and recently confirmed his ambition to vie for the former governing party's presidency to replace Peter Mutharika.