By Agness Changala-Katongo
President Edgar Lungu’s former assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda and former Road Transport and Safety Agency chief executive officer Zindaba Soko have denied corruptly receiving 21,000 USD from businessman Walid El Nahas.
And El Nahas also pleaded not guilty to two charges of corruptly giving 21, 000 USD to Chanda and Soko.
They took plea after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) issued a consent for the charges they are facing to be prosecuted.
On January 2, the three appeared in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court for corrupt practices and possession of US$21,000.
However, Chanda and Soko are the only ones who pleaded not guilty to a count each of possession of US$11,000 and US$10,000 respectively, which was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The duo did not take plea in two other counts of receiving the money in question as there was need for consent from the DPP.
Equally, El Nahas could not take plea before instructions for the charges he was facing to be prosecuted, were issued.
When the case came up before Chief Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale in the afternoon, State advocate from the National Prosecutions Authority, Sipholiano Phiri told the court that the instructions from the DPP were ready.
Magistrate Mwale told the accused persons that in view of the consent from the DPP, they would proceed to take plea.
When the charges were read to them, they all pleaded not guilty.
Magistrate Mwale recorded pleas of not guilty and adjourned the case to March 18, for commencement of trial.
In the first count, Nahas is charged with corrupt practices with a public officer with allegations being that he corruptly gave Soko US$10,000 between August 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019, a public officer, director and CEO at RTSA, as an inducement or reward in order to facilitate the award of a contract to Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited by RTSA for the provision of advanced road safety solutions and services, a matter or transaction that concerns RTSA, a public body.
Nahas in the second count is also charged with corrupt practices with a public officer with allegations being that during the same period, he corruptly gave Chanda US$11,000, who was President Lungu’s special assistance for press and public relations to facilitate the award of the contract to him.
In count three and four, Soko is charged with corrupt practices by a public officer and possession of the US$10,000 which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It is alleged that Soko corruptly received US$10,000 from Nahas and possessed the same money as an inducement for facilitating the said contract to Intelligent Mobility Solutions Limited.
Count five and six are in respect of Chanda with allegations being that he corruptly received US$11,000 from Nahas and possessed the same money which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Chanda and Nahas are represented by Jonas Zimba of Makebi Zulu and Company and Paul Chola of Lewis Nathan Advocates while Soko is represented by Willis Muhanga of AKM Legal Practitioners.
Ealier, when the case was called, it was stood down to 30 minutes because Chanda was not present.
After it was called for the second time, Phiri informed the court that all the accused persons were present.
He however, said before proceeding, the parties would like to see the court in Chambers for the second time to bring certain things to his attention.
After they returned from the chambers, the state requested that the matter be stood down to 14 hours in order to allow them attend a matter in the High Court scheduled for trial at 11 hours.
“We regret the inconvenience caused, but it will be in the interest of justice if our application to stand down the matter be accepted as prayed,” the state submitted.