ACC asks court to dismiss Tedworth’s petition over seized properties

LUSAKA High Court judge Gertrude Chawatama has set March 10 for hearing an application by the Anti-Corruption Commission that the petition by Tedworth Properties Inc and Frederick Chiluba’s children in which they are claiming the properties it seized in 2003 be dismissed.

The ACC on February 24, 2003 issued a seizure notice of the properties and served it on the Tedworth property managers, Access Leasing Limited.

The notice indicated that Stands No. F/488a/26/C, also known as Horizon House; F/ 488a/26/ D, known as Chibote House; and LUS/4829A, which is Albert Court in Longacres, Lusaka, were going to be forfeited to the State if not claimed within three months from the date of publication of the said notice.

The notice was published in the Government Gazette of February 7, 2003 and served on Access Leasing Limited on February 20, 2003.

It was issued under the provisions of the corrupt practices  (Disposal of Recovered Property) Regulations.

According to the notice, the properties were a subject of, and had been recovered during an investigation into an offence suspected to have been committed under the ACC Act.

Tedworth, a company registered in Panama that Chiluba used to purchase the Lusaka properties, claimed that it was the rightful owner of the properties.

On December 29 last year, the Supreme Court confirmed the forfeiture of the properties to the State pursuant to the Provisions of the Corrupt Practices (Disposal of Recovered Property) Regulations of 1986.

But Tedworth and Chiluba’s sons Patrice and Darlington, have petitioned the court to order that the first petitioner was the legal owner of the properties whilst the other petitioners were beneficiaries.

The petitioners have also cited the Attorney General.

ACC chief investigations officer Trevor Nyoni stated that the petitioners had no interest in the subject properties and therefore have no locus standi in the action.

He stated that the properties they were claiming were forfeited to the State and the Supreme Court confirmed it.

On the petitioners’ allegation that the Supreme Court violated the principles of natural justice by allowing a member of the judicial tribunal to participate in making a decision when he did not hear the parties and their submissions, Nyoni submitted that the judgment was erroneously signed by justice Jones Chinyama as opposed to justice Charles Kajimanaga.

He stated that the error had since been corrected by the court, therefore the petitioner’s claim on the violation of their rights to a free and fair hearing had become unfounded.

Nyoni stated that Tedworth could not claim to be owners of the properties because at the expiration of the seizure notice three months after it was issued and published,  no one claimed ownership but that the first petitioner commenced an action in court challenging the forfeiture and seeking a nullification of the regulations.

He added that Tedworth unsuccessfully challenged the forfeiture.

The ACC submitted that arising from the forfeiture, the properties were properly vested in the State as owner and that Tedworth’s claim of ownership, if any, were extinguished at the expiry of the three months notice from the date of the seizure notice.

“Following the court’s judgment, the 1st petitioners’ claim of ownership ceased to exist in 2003 when the properties were forfeited to the State. It follows therefore, that the 1st petitioner has no interest in the properties and lacked locus standi on the 17th January 2017 when this action was commenced,” Nyoni submitted.

On Patrice and Darlington’s claims, the ACC submitted that even if the properties belonged to Tedworth as alleged in the petition, Chiluba did not have an interest in them which formed the basis that even his children did not have interest in the properties.

Nyoni said company property belonged to the company and no claim to such property could be asserted by anyone, including a company shareholder.

“We submit that even if the properties belonged to the 1st petitioner, late Dr Chiluba did not have an interest in the said properties, which interest would then devolve to the 2nd and 3rd (Patrice and Darlington) petitioners as either personal representatives or beneficiaries,” Nyoni said.

But the petitioners have opposed the preliminary issues raised that they did not have locus standi and interest.

The petitioners submitted that the issues raised were improperly before court as no specific rule of court had been cited to support the motion.

They also argued that a petition could not be impeached by a preliminary motion and that there was no provision in the Protection of Fundamental Rights Rules of 1956 which permitted the filing of preliminary objections to a petition.

The petitioners stated further that if their objections to the motion were not successful, they would argue in the alternative that they did have locus standi in the matter as they both had sufficient interest in the properties which were the subject of the petition.

The petitioners added that the preliminary issues raised by the ACC were incompetent as they were not properly before court and that the motion ought to be dismissed with costs.

Judge Chawatama has set March 10 for hearing of the application to dismiss the petition. JC/News

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