Tuesday, October 19, 2010
By Chibaula Silwamba
Tue 19 Oct. 2010, 06:40 CAT
The state yesterday applied to the Lusaka High Court to have the petition by former Finance Bank chairman Dr Rajan Mahtani be heard in camera. This is in a matter where Mahtani has petitioned the High Court to suspend the prosecution of criminal charges against him and suspend the seizure of his passport pending determination of the petition.
When the matter came up for hearing before Lusaka High Court judge Dr Patrick Matibini yesterday, the state made a preliminary application for the matter to be heard in camera so that the press and members of the public could not have access to the proceedings.
But Mahtani’s lawyers objected to the application, saying all petitions should be heard in open court where the press and the public could access the proceedings. The lawyers said the application was procedurally incorrect because petitions are supposed to be held in open court where the media and public are supposed to access them without hindrance.
Judge Matibini adjourned the case to November 22, 23 and 24 for ruling on whether or not the case should be heard in camera.
Dr Mahtani together with Finsbury Investments Limited and Leasing Finance Company Limited in a petition dated August 13, 2010 in the High Court of Zambia sought the interim and final remedies.
In this matter, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) arrested and charged Mahtani with two counts of criminal offences for allegedly being in control of in excess of 25 per cent of voting shares in Finance Bank Zambia Limited without prior approval of the Bank of Zambia, money laundering, and seized monies in Finsbury Investments Limited’s accounts on allegations of money laundering.
The petitioners stated that between April and May 2010, Bank of Zambia (BoZ) held a series of interviews with some of the past and present shareholders of Finance Bank.
They stated that the Bank of Zambia said the purpose of the interviews was to establish the shareholding of Finance Bank and that Mahtani attended one such meeting with other shareholders on May 14, 2010 but was told to leave the meeting on the ground that he was not one of the listed shareholders of Finance Bank.
But in an affidavit in opposition to interim relief sought under Article 28(1), BoZ Director of Supervision Dr Austin Mwape stated that the central bank was aware that by the petition, Mahtani had challenged the constitutionality of section 31(2)(b) of the Banking and Financial Services (BFSA) Act Cap 387 of the Laws of Zambia.