NDC secretary general Mwenya Musenge has said the Financial Intelligence Centre FIC is now under siege. Musenge, a former member of the Patriotic Front and once Copperbelt minister, said it was worrying that the government had “colluded with criminals in discrediting FIC”.
Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya on Wednesday said the Financial Intelligence Centre’s 2017 Trends Report was only “raw data” and “should be treated as a rumour”.
According to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) 2017 Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing Trends Report released last Thursday, Zambia incurred losses in 2017 linked to financial crimes such as corruption and tax evasion, among others, amounting to a record K4.5 billion.
Data availed in the comprehensive report reveals that among the financial crimes committed last year, tax evasion cases ranked the highest, with an estimated loss of K3.9 billion incurred. Corruption, especially in public procurement, was second with estimated losses amounting to around K500 million, while money laundering and fraud were found in third and fourth place, with losses amounting to K90.5 million and K3.5 million, respectively.
But speaking during her weekly press briefing in Lusaka on Wednesday, Siliya branded the latest FIC report as “raw data” that should be treated as “a rumour, yet to be verified by the relevant investigative wings of government”.
However, Musenge said it was regrettable that others were advocating the disbandment of the institution.
“What is more worrying is that government seems to have colluded with criminals in discrediting the FIC. Government has waged war on the FIC using rogue State sponsored NGOs (and) criminals are also hatching plans to silence the FIC through coordinated innuendos,” Musenge said.
“We advise government not to entertain calls to disband the FIC.”
He further said the Financial Intelligence Centre was an important oversight institution, a government agency designed to promote checks and balances and prevent terrorist financing.
“As NDC, we feel there is urgent need to amend the FIC Act. The FIC should be given prosecutorial powers. We further propose that the capacity of the FIC should be enhanced. Government should consider increasing funding and recruiting more officers to be deployed at the agency. Unlike other politically polarised investigative wings, the FIC has stood firm in exposing financial crimes,” said Musenge.
“We laud the men and women at the FIC for being bold and putting national interest first. Officers at the FIC are risking their lives and working under extremely difficult conditions. We feel there is nothing wrong that the FIC did in releasing the much-talked about 2017 report. The FIC did not breach any internal communication line by releasing its findings to the public.”
He noted that had the FIC board breached any procedure in making the report public, Attorney General Likando Kalaluka, who was present at the launch, would have advised otherwise.
“The learned counsel would have advised the FIC board of any breach of procedure if indeed they passed the red line. Attorney General Likando Kalaluka was present when the 2017 FIC report was made public. As NDC, we challenge President Edgar Lungu to comment on findings in the latest FIC report,” said Musenge.
“The citizens of this country have the right to have access to public information. The disclosure of illicit financial dealings by the FIC should therefore not be misconstrued. The FIC is not fighting political battles.”