A former President of Zambia who allegedly diverted the proceeds of US$2.5 million oil deal with Nigeria was, Monday, acquitted by a Lusaka Magistrate Court.
Rupiah Banda, who was president between 2008 and 2011, was charged with abuse of office over an alleged embezzlement of the proceeds of the government-to-government contract.
Joshua Banda, the Magistrate, said the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The case is dismissed and the consequences of this is that the accused is acquitted,” the magistrate said.
“There is no evidence brought by the prosecution that the benefits were to accrue to the accused’s family and the prosecution failed to interview a single official from Nigeria.
“In conclusion I’m satisfied that the evidence laid before this Court is not sufficient to place the accused on his defence, the case is dismissed according to Section 206 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the consequences of this is that the accused is acquitted, leave to appeal is granted.”
Between 2008 and 2009, Nigeria and Zambia entered into an agreement which saw the former supply the latter 20,000 barrels of crude oil.
Mr. Banda, 78, was president at the time.
In 2011, he lost his re-election bid to Mr. Sata.
In March, 2013, the Zambian Parliament lifted Mr. Banda’s presidential immunity, paving the way for his prosecution over the oil deal.
The prosecution had alleged that Mr. Banda and his son, Henry, personalised the proceeds of the deal which they banked in Singapore and laundered through Mauritius and Japan.
Henry had fled the country shortly after his father lost the 2011 election.
Mr. Banda had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In his ruling on Monday, the magistrate said that the prosecution failed to show any evidence that Mr. Banda instructed his son to divert the funds or any documentation to show that someone signed on behalf of the Nigerian Government.
The magistrate also said that the prosecution failed to convince the court that a signature on a piece of paper purportedly showing receipt of money belonged to Henry Banda.
At the end of Monday’s proceedings, Mr. Banda sang and danced with dozens of his supporters outside the court.
“Let’s love one another and forgive each other. Let’s forget about this thing and move forward as a country,” Mr. Banda said amid tears.
“Having been a leader of this country before, I just want to ask everybody to take this matter seriously as a lesson to us Zambian people that you don’t respond hatred with hatred.”
Mr. Banda, who had served in various diplomatic posts prior to his presidency, faced a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
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