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Defence in Mahalu`s case closes testimony

9th May 2012
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Prof Ricky Mahalu

The defence side in a 2.5bn/- theft case facing former Tanzania’s Ambassador to Italy, Prof Ricky Mahalu and former counsellor with the same embassy, Grace Martin, has closed testimony.

Defence counsel Beatus Malima yesterday brought to court Martin, as the last witness and after her testimony, he asked presiding magistrate to allow both sides – defence and prosecution – to submit written submission, which is the next stage in the case.

However, presiding principal resident magistrate Ilvan Mgeta of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court asked both sides to return to court on May 16 to confirm receipt of proceedings before making their written submissions.

In her testimony, Martin asked the court to dismiss charges against her and his former boss associating them with occasioning the government loss of the said amount of money through forgery of various documents used in the purchase of an embassy building in Rome, claiming that they were null and void.

She told the court that instead of charging Mahalu, the government should have thanked him for facilitating acquisition of a top class embassy building in Rome.

Martin questioned the court decision to exonerate former financial attaché to the Tanzania’s embassy in Italy Prosper Ligwano, whom she said signed all documents, including the one on the purchase of the embassy building.

She wondered why the financial attaché, who was third accused in the case, was released and brought back to court as prosecution witness.

History was made on Monday after retired President Benjamin Mkapa appeared in court in Dar es Salaam – as last but one defence witness in a 2.5bn/- theft case facing Mahalu and Martin.

The unprecedented testimony by the former president is widely viewed as an interesting twist to the high-profile case.

Led by defence counsel Alex Mgongolwa, Mkapa told principal resident magistrate Ilvan Mgeta that the purchase had his government’s blessings.

“The government blessed the purchase of the building …I was informed about that and I did not prevent it,” he said, adding that he was notified that the payments would be made by way of deposits into two accounts.

Counsel Mgongolwa then asked the witness how come the first prosecution witness, former Chief Secretary Martin Lumbanga, denied knowing about the purchase.

“I am surprised that he (Lumbanga) said so. What I know is that the purchase was approved,” said Mkapa.

Mgongolwa went on to ask Mkapa to tell the court why it so happened that he knew about the transaction but the Chief Secretary didn’t. Responding, Mkapa said that might be possible “but it is very difficult”.

He explained that the much he knew was that two ministries – Works and Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development – were involved in the evaluation of the said building.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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