THE Nkoya Royal Council (NRC) has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to exercise his prerogative of mercy and pardon former Labour minister Austin Liato who was jailed for being in possession of property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The prosecution, led by former DPP Mutembo Nchito and the subsequent controversial confirmation of the sentence by the Supreme Court, has left national contention.
NRC chairman David Tamboka told the Daily Nation that even though Mr. Liato may have erred in his life and subsequently slapped with a two year jail term, there was need for the Head of State to have mercy on him because of the good things he did for the people of Western Province.
Mr. Tamboka observed that Mr. Liato had done a lot while he was member of Parliament (MP) in Kaoma and on that account there was need for the President to show lenience on him just like he had done to other prisoners who were serving sentences for various crimes.
He said Mr. Liato had acted in good faith in all his time as an MP and that he was among the few MPs in Western Province who had dedicated their lives to serving the people that they represented.
“As Nkoya Royal Council, we are appealing to President Edgar Lungu to pardon our Nkoya son Austin Liato who is in Mwembeshi Prison. This man was a hardworking MP and did a lot in Mankoyaland and Western Province as a whole.
“We won’t forget what he did in Kaoma and Nkeyema during his time as MP and we are therefore asking the President to show leniency on him and pardon him because of his past good record,” Mr. Tamboka said.
Mr. Liato was on July 23, 2013 convicted and sentenced to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court, which also ordered that his farm and the money which he had buried on the property, be forfeited to the State but the sentence was later quashed by the Lusaka High Court.
The State appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds that the High Court erred in law when it held that to prove reasonable suspicion under section 71, the prosecution had to show a link between the source of the money or the accused to possible criminal conduct among other grounds of appeal.
In June this year, Supreme Court judge Mumba Malila upheld Mr. Liato’s conviction by the magistrate.
Liato was charged with possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime contrary to section 71(1) Act number 19 of 2011 of the laws of Zambia.
On November 24, 2011 in Lusaka, Liato had in his possession K2.1 million, which was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.