FORMER minister of Mines Maxwell Mwale has been convicted on charges of abuse of authority of office and the Lusaka Magistrate Court has remanded him in police custody to wait for his sentencing tomorrow.
However, Magistrate Lameck Mwale acquitted Mwale of the offence of being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime
The court also acquitted Zhongui International Mining Industry Group Limited director Charles Shi for bringing 5000 bicycles to Zambia without following the law.
The magistrate said he was convinced that Mwale abused his office by interfering in the issuance of mining licences.
This is in the matter in which Mwale was facing two counts of abuse of authority of his office and possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
“In the light of findings or facts, I have come to the conclusion that the accused did abuse his office by directing Mr Miyoba Lumamba (the director at the Ministry of Mines) to process and facilitate issuance of mining licences for accused number two without following the laid down procedure,” he said.
Magistrate Mwale said there were other applicants for mining licences before Zhongui International Mining Industry Group Limited applied but they were not considered.
He said the system at the Ministry of Mines was such that the issuance of mining licences was based on first come, first served basis.
Mr Mwale said the interference by the former minister in the process showed that he had personal interest in the mining licences.
He said if there was economic downturn at the time when Mwale interfered in the process to attract investors, there was no justification to depart from provisions of the law.
“The lightning speed at which the applications for mining licences were processed and facilitated at instructions of the accused gives no reasonable doubt that the accused committed a crime and I found him guilty of abuse of authority of his office,” he said.
On count two, Mr Mwale acquitted the former minister of possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime saying that the arresting officer did not do thorough investigations in the matter.
He said the officer failed to establish who paid for the bicycles and that the State neglected its duty to prove the case.
“In this case, I found the accused not guilty as charged in count two,” Mr Mwale said.
On count three where Mr Charles was charged for bringing the bicycles without following the law, Mr Mwale said there was a loan agreement between the parties involved.
In mitigation, Mwale said through lawyer Sakwiba Sikota that the court should consider giving him a non-custodial sentence or suspended one.
He said his client was a first offender in his advanced stage of life, has 13 children and 31 grandchildren and taking care of his aging mother-in-law.
Mr Sikota said Mwale worked in senior positions in Government to serve the people of Zambia and that he had no personal interest in the mining licences and never benefited anything from them but ended up being dragged to court.
He said Mwale’s case had attracted a lot of media attention such that people have known him and mocked him whenever they saw him in public places which he said was a punishment enough for him.