FORMER Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Maxwell Mwale has been convicted by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for abuse of authority of office by facilitating the issuance of mining licences to a Chinese firm.
Magistrate Lameck Mwale, who has deferred sentencing to tomorrow, has, however, acquitted Mwale of the second account of being in possession of 5,000 bicycles worth over K1.5 million suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The court has also acquitted Zhongui International Mining Industry Group Limited, which was charged with corrupt clearance of 5,000 bicycles for Mwale and paying K473,000 to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).
Delivering a judgment yesterday, Magistrate Mwale said Mwale abused his authority of office when he interfered in the issuance of mining licences to Zhongui International Mining Industry Group Limited.
“The lightning speed at which the mining licences were been processed by accused number one [Mwale] shows that he had personal interest in the acts and this is an indication enough that he abused his authority of office.
“This has left me with no reasonable doubt but to find accused number one [Mwale] guilty in count one and convict him accordingly,” Mr Mwale said.
He said there was no justifiable reason to depart from the law in issuing mining licences even though the world was experiencing an economic crisis.
Mr Mwale, in acquitting Mwale, said the prosecution failed to prove that the accused was involved in the importation of the bicycles.
In mitigation, Mwale’s lawyer Sakwiba Sikota said the court should consider giving him a non-custodial or a suspended sentence because he was remorseful and a family man.
Mr Sikota said the conviction of Mwale has ended his public and political career and has also closed his doors to other employment opportunities.
He said Mwale is currently looking after an aged and bedridden mother-in-law and is a breadwinner of both the nuclear and extended family.
Mwale allegedly abused the authority of his office by facilitating the issuance of mining licences to Zhongui International Mining Industry Group Limited and its related companies.
The alleged offence was committed between May 1, 2009 and August 31, 2011.
He is also alleged to have imported and retained 5,000 bicycles valued at K1.5 million suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The offence was allegedly committed on an unknown date but between July 1 and August 31, 2011.