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Court hears 2 properties in Chitotela case still under Austin Liato and Mary Lubinga names

MINISTRY of Lands Registrar William Mwale has testified that the Makeni and Ibex Hill properties that infrastructure minister Ronald Chitotela is alleged to have concealed are still registered in the names of the original owners Austin Liato and Mary Lubinga.

And Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) senior inspector Alick Kambani has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that Brut Holdings, a company jointly charged with Chitotela and two others and China Harbour Engineering did not declare withholding tax over the US300,000 transaction made.

In this matter, Chitotela is in the first and second counts jointly charged with Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited for concealing a property in Makeni and Ibex Hill which are suspected to be proceeds of crime.

It is alleged that the offences were committed between July 3, 2016 and October 30 last year in Lusaka.

The trio is further charged with Diris Mukange, who is facing two counts of possession of properties reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

Giving his evidence-in-chief before principal resident magistrate David Simusamba, Mwale, 55, a registrar at the lands ministry narrated that ACC approached the ministry with a purpose of establishing ownership of Lot 22183 /M situated in Ibex Hill and 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni.

He said he proceeded to produce the lands register printout which showed that the registered owner for the property in Ibex was Austin Chisangu Liato while the Makeni property showed that the registered owner was Lubinga Mary Katebe.

When cross-examined by defence lawyer James Mataliro, Mwale said the two properties as at this month were still owned by Liato and Lubinga.

He confirmed that the two printouts from the lands register were printed on April 23, 2019.

And Kambani, 41, of ZRA, described his duties, among others, as ensuring that tax returns that are filed by taxpayers are posted on a system called tax online.

He narrated how the Anti Corruption Commission served the authority with a warrant to access information pertaining to Brut Holdings Limited in which they requested that they needed to provide information on a transaction amounting US$300,000.

Kambani said he provided a document called taxpayer’s compliance status in relation to the warrant to access information relating to Brut Holdings Limited.

He said the document showed the name of the taxpayer in this instance was Brut Holdings and the tax type registered for with ZRA.

Kambani identified the document because it has features such as the name of the taxpayer and his identification number (TPIN).

He said on tax returns, the details of the taxpayer and tax type which the taxpayer was registered for include the period which it was registered for, adding that in the case at hand, it was from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016.

He said any employee who has user rights could access the system but added that it comes with a unique password that was only known to the users.

“As long as you don’t have a password, you can’t access the system where the data is generated from,” Kambani said.

He said the document does not in any way show the US$300,000 transaction, which the ACC officers specifically requested for.

“It shows transactions such as zeros and there is no mention of US$300,000. It means that income was not declared,” Kambani said.

He said the request that had come from ACC was not only for Brut Holdings but also China Harbour as well as Andrew and Partners.

He said the ACC officers wanted to know the tax affairs of Andrew and Partners and he provided them with tax returns for the taxes which Andrew and Partners are registered for in ZRA.

He said Andrew and Partners were registered for value added tax, Income tax, Pay As You Earn and withholding tax.

Kambani said he availed the compliance status report to ACC for Andrew and Partners and described the features.

He said Andrew and Partners was tax compliant.

Kambani said ACC also requested for China Harbour Engineering tax status which he compiled from the system and extracted the actual returns that China Harbour was registered for such as withholding tax, VAT and Income tax.

Kambani said with regards withholding tax, the taxpayer had not withheld payment in terms of US$300,000 that was initially included on the warrant to access information, which the officers wanted.

Kambani said the transactions pertaining to what was contained in the warrant involving US$300,000 was nowhere contained in the compliance status report.

Kambani, however, in cross-examination, said the warrant from ACC stated that ZRA must provide information on Brut Holdings and the specific transaction amounting to US$300,000 to see whether tax was accounted for on that particular account.

He said the US$300,000 was coming from China Harbour.

Asked if the US$300,000 was for Andrews and Partners, Kambani responded in the affirmative.

He said the income was not for Brut Holdings and China Harbour.

Further asked that since it was not for China Harbour and Brut Holdings, then it could not be found on income for Brut holdings and China Harbour to which Kambani said “correct”.

The witness agreed that as at April 18, 2019, Andrew and Partners was tax compliant.

Kambani said the reports he tendered in were printed in April 2019.

He said he did not tell the court when he received the warrant to access information.

Asked if he had issue with Brut Holdings Limited tax issues, he said “yes” but also agreed that he did not tell the court that he had issue.

Kambani confirmed that those tax compliance issues contained in the report have not been resolved as it was an issue between ZRA and Brut Holdings.

Asked if each and every business which is compliant commits the offence of fraud, Kambani said as long as the authority was able to prove.

And Davies Chansa, 50, a civil engineer, who works for BICON Zambia Limited, also testified that ACC some time last October or November visited him over the consultancy services they provided to the Road Development Agency over the Kawambwa – Mporokoso road.

Chansa told the officers that the Road Development Agency contracted them to provide consultancy services regarding the same road in which they gave a detailed design.

He said his company was engaged by RDA to produce the report on the design of the road.

Chanda said he did not know if RDA engaged another company to do the same works, adding that he would not have issue even if they did.

Trial continues on April 29.

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