Malawi court is treating Riaz Jakhura with ‘kid gloves’

Riaz Jakhura disobeying Malawi court

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-One of the country’s Indian businessman Riaz Jakhura is being treated with kid gloves following the court’s decision to denying the state’s warrant of arrest on him.

This comes as Blantyre Principal Resident Magistrate Court on Monday, October 24, 2022 dismissed an application by the State for a warrant of arrest against Jakhura.

Jakhura has severally disobeyed court summons to take plea.

According to the criminal case no. 454 of 2022, Riaz Jakhura, owner of Speedy’s Limited, Bashir Osman Adams, who is owner of Adams Car Hire Limited, the General Manager for Speedy’s Limited, Jayaraj Gobalan, and Financial Controller, Priyal Fernando have been charged with four (4) counts – criminal trespass, intimidation, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and theft of motor vehicle.

This publication understands that on December 24, 2021, Jakhura and his alleged accomplices allegedly stormed into a private residence of Mahmood Chaudhry at Mount Pleasant in Blantyre where they demanded a Mercedes Benz vehicle that he (Jakhura) had allegedly imported from the United Kingdom on behalf Chaudhry.

The vehicle was worth over K60 million and Chaudhry paid the price and attendant payments to Jakhura. But after some days, it is alleged that Jakhura brought up extra bills and when Chaudhry demanded a valid explanation, Jakhura threatened to confiscate the car from him although the car had already been registered in Chaudhry’s name.

When Chaudhry refused to surrender the car, Jakhura and his friends allegedly physically attacked him and later sped away with the vehicle using a duplicate key.

Blantyre Police however arrested the three other suspects and kept them at Chilomoni Police Station before they were released on bail by the Mbulumbuzi Magistrate’s Court on January 9, 2022. By the time of the arrests, Jakhura had allegedly ‘fled’ to the United Kingdom.

But since the case was filed in court, only the three accused persons have appeared and taken pleas.

They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Jakhura has never appeared in court for plea taking, despite several adjournments.

A fortnight ago, State Prosecutor, Superintendent Damian Kaputa, applied for a Warrant of Arrest in respect of the first accused person.

Kaputa argued that he (Jakhura) is deliberately evading his trial by bringing excuses whenever the date is set for the case.

Defence Counsel, Lusungu Gondwe argued that the application made by the State lacked substance as it is not backed by law. He said no authority has been provided from which the application is made.

However, even after agreeing with the State on certain aspects of the law that were in favour of a Warrant of Arrest, Principal Resident Magistrate Godfrey Balaka said in his ruling he was not granting the State the nod.

“We have looked at the circumstances surrounding this case. We have also considered the arguments made for and against in this application.

It is the considered view of this court that we give the defence a benefit of doubt by not issuing a warrant of arrest against the first accused person.

“However, the same should be a warning to him that if the summons are again disobeyed, a warrant of his arrest shall be issued. With the above discussion, the application to issue a warrant of arrest is denied,” ruled the Principal Resident Magistrate Balaka on Monday.

Jakhura, who is said to be in Dubai, is expected to return to Malawi on November 9, 2022.

But a Lilongwe-based legal expert, who preferred anonymity, told this publication it could be an understatement to suggest that the court is treating Jakhura with ‘kid gloves’.

“The law is very clear that if you disobey court summons, several times, you are in contempt of court and you ought to be arrested,” he said, adding that refusal by the court to issue a warrant of arrest for Jakhura may be deemed as ‘selective justice’ owing to Jakhura’s high standing in society.

Section 84 (I ) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code gives mandate to the court to issue summons or warrant to compel the attendance of the accused person.

It provides: “Upon a formal charge having been completed in accordance with section 83, the magistrate may, in his discretion, issue either a summons or a warrant to compel the attendance of the accused before a subordinate court having jurisdiction to inquire into or try the offence alleged to have been committed.”

According to Principal Magistrate Balaka, this section gives discretion to the magistrate to issue either a summons or a warrant to compel the attendance of the accused.

“In the present matter, it is evident that the prosecution proceeded to summon the accused persons to appear before court to answer their charges. While three have so far complied with the summons, one accused person is yet to comply. This matter was registered in court on 5th May 2022 and there have been several adjournments, and on all the dates we convened, the first accused person has never attended.

“There have been excuses, from him and sometimes, his Counsel. That is the reason why at present, the State is applying for Warrant of Arrest to compel his attendance. There is a formal charge having already been completed by this court.

“In our view, looking at the circumstances, which have surrounded the progress of this matter, a warrant of arrest could be ideal to compel the attendance of the first accused person. Counsel for the accused person states that the reason given for his nonattendance today should be taken into his favour.

“However, it must be acknowledged, that Counsel misinformed the court when he said the accused person is attending medication in the United Kingdom, yet he is in Dubai The same was later retracted by Counsel for the accused, through a letter, which we believe did not form part of the record.

“Suffice to say that when the first accused person was leaving for Dubai, he knew (we assume) that there was his case coming on the scheduled date,” said the magistrate, detailing other relevant legal provisions before, nonetheless, dismissing the State application.

The state is yet to make a decision on matter.

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