The Mzuzu Magistrate Court has found guilty three people who stole 380 tobacco bales from the Tobacco Association of Malawi TAMA depots belonging to Chitipa and Mzimba farmers.
Senior Resident Magistrate Ms. Agnes Nyirenda however only sentenced the two convicts to 3 years five months each but has reserved sentence ruling for the first accused who is reportedly sick.
The court heard that between the months of June and July last year, Mr. Ishmael Zachariah, Mr. Judah Chimwepa, Mr. Symon Chatera Banda and Mr. Amon Mussa who passed away before the matter was taken to court stole bales of tobacco at Tobacco Association of Malawi TAMA depots in Mzimba and Nthalire in Chitipa.
The gang is alleged to have used vehicles that were not registered with Road Traffic Directorate, Trucks registration number KU1073 and CA5189 were therefore used to steal the tobacco bales.
Some of the accused Mr. Banda and Mr. Chimwepa are said to have registered with the a transporting firm and they used this identity to dupe TAMA officials who gave them loading authority.
With this on 14th June they went to Mzimba using where they collected 163 bales of tobacco and on 20th July to Nthalire where they collected 104 bales they sold this tobacco to Zambia and Mozambique.
But it was 113 bales which they collected on July 26th at Nthalire again that led to their arrest as the truck first broke down right there in Chitipa before running out of fuel at Rumphi Boma where the three were arrested when Mr. Mussa had already been apprehended.
State Lawyer Mr. Gilbert Khonyongwa of the Lilongwe based TF and Partners legal firm pleaded with the court not to show lenience saying although the convicts were first offenders but the sophistication in how they executed the crime and considering that the victims were vulnerable farmers who lost millions of Kwacha the court was supposed to mete out stiff punishment.
Senior Resident Magistrate Ms. Agnes Nyirenda concurred with the state counsel saying criminal compensation would not have been sufficient to what the farmers would have got had they sold the tobacco.
She therefore sentenced Chimweta and Mr. Zacharia 3 years and 5 months each on both counts of theft and obtaining property though false pretense which will run concurrently.
She however reserved ruling for the first accused Mr. Banda since his lawyer Mr. Phillip Banda of Mullingula Chambers legal firm of Mzuzu explained that his health had drastically deteriorated and that he was released from prison on these grounds.
She said the Prosecution counsel and the Mchinji Court where Mr. Banda is should visit him and assess his health to see whether or not he can be slapped with a custodial sentence.