Lusaka resident magistrate, Mbuywana Sinvula, has recused herself from presiding over the matter in which former First Lady, Esther Lungu, is accused of theft of motor vehicle and being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crimes.
Esther, who was accompanied by her husband, former president, Edgar Lungu, appeared before Magistrate Sinvula but could not take plea.
The ex-First Lady is jointly charged with two police officers, James Phiri and Lee Chisulo, Kapambwe Lungu and Catherine Banda.
When the matter came up for possible plea on Friday, Magistrate Sinvula said she could not handle the case because the charge of possession or concealing money amounting to US$400,000, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime was the preserve of the Economic and Financial Crimes Court , which was not within her jurisdiction.
She, therefore, sent the matter back for reallocation.
“I have been made aware of the charges and because of the charge in count five, the matter therefore falls in the realm of the Economic and Financial Crimes Count for which this court is not,” she said.
But the defence argued that the court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter, with counsel Jonas Zimba contending that there was no law that define what an Economic and Financial Crime is .
“Your Honour, this court is still sitting, therefore can review its own decision. The decision that this particular charge in court five falls within the realm of Economic and Financial Crimes, it is erroneous acronym. I say so because in this jurisdiction there is no law that defines what a Economic and Financial Crime is,” he said.
Zimba further argued there was no prescription as to which court is designated as a Financial Crimes Court at the Subordinate court and cited Article 133 of Act no. 2 of 2016 .
He asked Magistrate Sinvula to refer the matter to the Constitutional court for reference as to whether the creation the said division at the subordinate court was in conformity with article 120 of the constitution.
Counsel Leon Lemba also argued that there were no divisions in the Surbordinate Court as it has jurisdiction to determine any matter.
He prayed the court to reverse its decision to send back the matter for re-allocation.
However, Prosecutor Sitali Muyangwa asked for an adjournment to give the State enough time to respond to the application.
Despite the defence objecting to the adjournment, the State was granted the request.
Magistrate Sinvula adjourned the case to October 4, 2023 for the State’s reply.
In count one, allegations are that the accused persons between August 9, 2021 and September 30, 2022 in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together, did steal a motor vehicle namely a Mitsubishi Canter registration number BAV 5282 valued at K320,000.00, the property of Elizabeth Change Phiri.
While in count two, allegations are that the five on the same date, in Lusaka, did steal a Toyuta Runnex registration number BLA 9772 valued at K 110,000.00 the property of Elizabeth Change Phiri.
In count three, it is alleged that the Esther jointly and whilst a ting together with the other four suspects, between August 9, 2021 and September 30, 2022 did steal a Toyota Alex registration number BAV 3986 valued at K 110,000.00 the property of Furhana Patel.
In count four,the former First lady, Chisulo, Lungu and Banda on the same date in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together, allegedly stole a Certificate of tittle relating to stand No. S/LUSAKA/0003/2977 located in Libala Lusaka Water Works valued at K 1 ,050,000.00, the property of Elizabeth Change Phiri.
The last count alleges the ex- first lady between August 9, 2021 and September 30, 2022 in Lusaka, had in her possession or concealed money amounting to US$ 400,000 United State,property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
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