MIKE Mulongoti says State House’s attempt to rob Zambians out of billions of kwacha from First Quantum Minerals must viciously be watched and later followed up.
According to reliable sources, State House has bowed to pressure and is forcing Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines-Investments Holdings (ZCCM-IH) to discontinue the fraud case in which it claims First Quantum Minerals (FQM) swindled it out of US$1.4 billion.
In November last year, ZCCM-IH, which holds shares on behalf of the Zambian government in the privatised and now foreign-owned mines, sued FQM in the Lusaka High Court for fraud and simultaneously commenced an arbitration process in London in an attempt to recover the money.
ZCCM-IH says FQM defrauded it repeatedly from 2006 to 2012 by hiding profits from Kansanshi Mining Plc and using proceeds from that period of high copper prices to build other mines without its consent as a shareholder.
The FQM executives sued by ZCCM-IH included chairman and chief executive officer Philip Pascall and directors Arthur Mathias Pascall, Clive Newall and Martin Rowley.
On April 21, 2017, Arthur, the director of operations, wrote to Attorney General Likando Kalaluka requesting him to force ZCCM-IH to drop the matter that is actively before the courts of law. The FQM directors also asked Kalaluka to protect them from prosecution. As the matter continued being battled in the Lusaka High Court, State House press aide Amos Chanda announced on May 10 that President Edgar Lungu would interfere in the ongoing legal dispute between ZCCM-IH and FQM and direct the matter to be settled outside the courts of law.
And last week, while the case was being heard in court, the Ministry of Finance issued a statement saying the first round of negotiations on the matter were fruitful.
Commenting on the matter, Mulongoti, the People’s Party president, observed that there was no morality in President Lungu’s government. He wondered what incentive was there for President Lungu, who recently hinted that he did not interfere in active court processes, to now call for a friendly resolution of the ZCCM-IH and FQM legal battle.
We have a problem when it comes to the issue of integrity in the PF government. The President, together with his spokesperson, has emphatically said they will not interfere with any court issues. When the outside world and everybody was persuading him to secure the release of HH (Hakainde Hichilema), he refused! Now, there is a court process (between ZCCM-IH and First Quantum Minerals) which involves resources of Zambia where ZCCM-Investment Holdings want to get money from an investor who has behaved dishonestly and he wants to intervene! How?
Mulongoti, who served as a Cabinet minister in various ministries during the MMD reign, wondered in an interview in Lusaka.
“This is a matter that must be followed up very viciously. What we’ll see is that they will become richer and Zambia will get poorer! They (FQM) have spent money that is supposed to come to Zambia on developing their own companies and the (ZCCM-IH) chief executive officer Dr Pius Kasolo is trying to get that money back. But for whatever reason, they (government) want to stop that money coming back to the people of Zambia.”
He further asked the rationality of Zambia yearning to borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) an amount of US$1.6 billion when they were in cahoots with FQM over US$1.4 billion.
We are convinced that they must have been paid because there is no way they can insist on going to the IMF to borrow US$1.6 billion and yet there is more than US$2 million from the mine that they are trying to collect. How can that be?
“So, there is no reason to allow them even to go to the IMF if they can’t collect that money which is here! This issue of insincerity is not right and along the way, the people of Zambia who are suffering will demand for little more than just ordinary explanation.”
He cautioned those who were currently looting public funds in the PF government that money could not be hidden.
They have become so rich such that some of them don’t even know what to do with the money. There is no secret in the world today -whether you’ve hidden your money in South Africa, Dubai or wherever, we’ll get to know and the people of Zambia will demand for that money,