New twist in RB’s oil case as Magistrate refuses to admitt the offer letter

The case in which Former President Rupiah Banda was charged with abuse of authority of office by diverting the proceeds of State to State Oil deal has taken a new twist.  Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda on Thursday May 22,2014 rejected the State’s application to have the Offer letter admitted in court.

Delivering ruling in a packed courtroom at 13 hours Zambian time, Magistrate Banda said the Offer letter from Nigerian Oil Company can not be admitted because no one from the Nigerian Government came to testify to confirm that indeed the letter was authentic.

Magistrate Banda also rejected a hand written note alleged to have been authored by former President Rupiah Banda’s son Henry because because no foundation was laid in court. Magistrate Banda however admitted to court 10 other documents among them a contract between a Nigerian Company called SARB Energy and Major Richard Kachingwe. Other documents admitted were a photocopy of a power of attorney drafted by former Energy Minister Kenneth Konga to Richard Kachingwe and a bank transmission notice of US $ 500,000 from SARB Energy a company owned by a Nigerian Akpan Ekpene to Aexora a company owned by Henry Banda.

The ruling follows an objection last month by the defense team that the arresting officer Mr. Friday Tembo can not produce photocopies in court because he failed to prove that he conducted a diligent search for originals. The defense also submitted that the arresting officer failed to meet the minimum standards under the Authentication of documents Act for foreign documents, Electronic communication and transaction Act for electronic mail print out and the  Bankers Act for the bank documents.

However, Magistrate Joshua Banda is his ruling said he had considered several ingredients to the production of documents among them Admisibility, Relevance, Credibility, Reliance and Value to the case.

He said in his considered view, the arresting officer had made efforts to get original copies but failed. He said on the power of attorney, money transfer to Henry’s company and the contract, Major Kachingwe, Mr. Konga and Mr. Akpan Ekpene had been to court to testify as such he was going to admit the photocopies. On the letter of offer that stipulates that the Nigerian government offered a government to government oil deal, Magistrate Banda said he could not admit it because it has no origin as no one from the Nigerian government came to testify.

Former President Rupiah Banda is accused of having diverted the benefits of a Nigeria to Zambia oil deal to his family. When Akpan Ekpene testified, he told the court that the Zambian government has never paid for any oil in Nigeria and that discussions were going on with the current government to conclude the deal.

Mr. Ekpene also told the court that the US$500,000 he transmitted to Henry Banda’s account was his donation towards campaigns for the 2011 elections.

One lawyer outside the court who is not part of the defense team told the Zambian Watchdog that technically, the ruling means that there was no offer. Mr. Banda is being represented by Professor Patrick Mvunga, Sakwiba Sikota, Erick Silwamba, Stephen Lungu, Ireen Kunda, Lubinda Linyama and Makebi Zulu.

The state team is headed by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito. The matter has since been adjourned to Friday May,23,2014 for the defense to cross examine the State’s last witness who is the arresting officer Mr. Friday Tembo on the documents that have benn admitted.

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