SEAN Tembo says the arrest of Ronald Chitotela could be a publicity stunt by President Edgar Lungu to create a false impression that he is serious in the fight against corruption.
Reacting to the Anti-Corruption Commission’s arrest of the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing on Tuesday, Tembo urged the ACC to guard against being used by the PF and save its integrity.
The ACC on Tuesday afternoon announced that it had arrested and charged Chitotela with two counts of concealing properties believed to be proceeds of crime.
Chitotela 47, has been charged with two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act number 19 of 2010.
“Details in the first count are that on unknown dates but between the first day of July 2016 and the 30th day of October 2018, in Lusaka district, honourable Chitotela did conceal a property namely, lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni, Lusaka disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime,” reads a statement issued by Anti Corruption Commission assistant public relations manager Dorothy Mwanza.
“Details in the second count are that on dates unknown but between the 1st day of July 2016 and the 30th day of October 2018, in Lusaka district, Honourable Chitotela did conceal a property, namely the remaining extent of Subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.”
The ACC stated that Chitotela was released on bond and would appear in court soon.
But Tembo, leader of the opposition Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), argued that he found it extremely strange that ACC had not charged the suspect with any crime, the proceeds of which he is now being accused of concealing.
He said the charges under the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010 were rider charges, meaning that a person must first be charged of a particular crime before they could be charged with concealing proceeds of crime and applying to forfeit their property on the basis that they are proceeds of crime.
“The same applies to a charge of money laundering. A person cannot be charged with money laundering as a stand-alone charge, unless they have also been charged with another crime, whose proceeds they’re now being accused of laundering,” Tembo argued.
He said any rider charge which had no parent charge on which it is riding could not stand in a court of law and would definitely be dismissed.
“Given the foregoing, we are left with two possible scenarios. Either the Anti-Corruption Commission has acted with gross negligence and incompetence in this matter by charging the accused with two counts, both of which are rider charges, with no parent charge, or the arrest of the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Mr Ronald Chitotela is a carefully choreographed window dressing exercise by the Patriotic Front in general and President Lungu in particular, designed to give a false image to the public that President Lungu is serious in the fight against corruption to the extent that he even consents to the prosecution of serving Ministers, when in fact not, he said.
Tembo said PeP was inclined to believe that the arrest of Chitotela was a publicity stunt given that they had complete confidence in the competence of the ACC, save for the usual political interference.
“This means that the PF possibly secretly conspired with their Minister and some officers of ACC to have the Minister charged with two superficial criminal charges which would deliberately not stick in court. Once the Minister is acquitted, President Lungu would have scored two political goals; firstly, that he is serious with fighting corruption, and secondly that there are no corrupt ministers in his Cabinet after all, as evidenced by the pre-planned acquittal. Zambians must say a resounding no to this shallow type of politicking being displayed by the PF,” he said.
Tembo challenged the ACC the to safeguard its integrity by resisting being used as a political pawn by the PF in general and President Lungu in particular.
“In this regard, the ACC should add the parent charges of corruption from which the two rider charges of concealing property suspected to be proceeds of crime, are emanating from. The ACC is hereby further reminded that not all Zambians are stupid,” said Tembo.