Ex-ZAF commander Andrew Sakala convicted

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FORMER Zambia Air Force (ZAF) commander Andrew Sakala has been convicted of stealing K1.5 million.
The money was meant for special operations prior to the 2011 general elections.
Sakala’s co-accused, former Zambia Army commander Wisdom Lopa and former Zambia National Services (ZNS) commandant Anthony Yeta have since been acquitted of the same charge after the court established that the duo did not have a hand in the theft.
Deputy director of local courts Wilfred Muma, who sat as principal magistrate could, however, not sentence Sakala because his lawyer Edgar Khosa, who represented the convict’s defence lawyer Nganga Yalenga, could not mitigate.
This resulted in Mr Muma adjourning the mitigation and Sakala’s sentencing to Friday this week but remanded him in prison.
It was alleged that Sakala, Lieutenant-General Lopa and Major-General Yeta between September 16 and 21, 2011 in Lusaka while serving in the Ministry of Defence, stole K1.5 million belonging to the ministry.
The three defence chiefs denied the charge but during their defence, Sakala admitted receiving the K1.5 million from the Zambia Security Intelligence Services (ZSIS) and claimed he gave his two co-accused K500,000 each.
Sakala told the court that the K500,000 which he allocated to himself was given to his 120 informers but that he did not account for the money because he was retired before he could do so and that he was not given an opportunity to exculpate himself before he was arrested.
Mr Muma in his judgment yesterday said Sakala was given an opportunity in court to account for the money but he neglected or evaded the opportunity by bringing in issues of classified information.
He said that after analysing the information in chambers which Sakala claimed was classified, it was established that the information would not put the nation at any security risk.
Mr Muma said even during his defence, Sakala kept on ‘blowing hot and cold statements’ but without rebutting the evidence given by his co-accused that they used to exchange gifts with each other using the bags Sakala claimed to have used to deliver the money.
Mr Muma said Sakala had no right of claim of the money, adding that he stole the money by depriving the Government of it permanently.
He said it was not in dispute that the K1.5 million was deposited into the ZAF account and was withdrawn at the instance of Sakala and he failed to account for it.
Mr Muma said Sakala was a witness not anchored on truth, as such, the prosecution failed to prove the case against Gen Lopa and Gen Yeta.
“I, therefore, acquit accused number two and accused number three and, therefore, set them at liberty forthwith and I find accused number one guilty as charged and I convict him accordingly,” Mr Muma said.
Sakala faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.
Gen Lopa said he could not yet comment on the judgment while Gen Yeta opted to remain mute.
Gen Yeta’s wife broke down in disbelief after her husband walked to freedom as the two hugged each other with Gen Lopa and his family equally celebrating his acquittal.
During trial, the two former defence chiefs put the oath of secrecy aside and testified in an open court in a bid to clear their names.
Gen Yeta and Gen Lopa during trial distanced themselves from Sakala’s claims that they received K500,000 each from him.

 Times of Zambia
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