AN ACC investigations officer has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that investigations he conducted on a property allegedly concealed by Ronald Chitotela revealed that he had influence over the two properties. Testifying before principal resident magistrate David Simusamba, Christopher Siwakwi told court that on June 28, 2017, he received corruption allegations against Chitotela, the serving Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development.
He said it was alleged that the Pambashe member of parliament was in possession of unexplained properties.
“Other allegations were that Ronald Kaoma Chitotela was receiving bribes from Chinese and local contractors,” Siwakwi said.
He said he further received information that Farm 148/50A in Makeni and Sub Division A Lot 22163/M in Ibex Hill, Lusaka were bought by Chitotela from Mary Lubinga and Austin Liato.
“I received further information that the money used to purchase the said properties was suspected to be proceeds of crime. Further information was that the monies used to purchase the said properties originated from China Harbour, amounting to US$300,000 whose account was domiciled at Bank of China,” he said. Siwakwi said he served a warrant at Bank of China to inspect the said account and was provided with a bank statement for China Harbour Engineering Corporation. He said after analysing the statement, he found that on July 27, 2016, there was US$300,000 outgoing transaction to Andrew and Partners who had an account with FNB as payment for legal fees.
He said after interviewing an officer from the bank, he established that China Harbour had a dollar account with Bank of China. Siwakwi told court that he discovered that on the payment details, it indicates legal services on favour of Andrew and Partners with US$300,000 attached as a legal services contract between China Harbour and Andrew and Partners.
“The contract was in relation to legal services for upgrading of Kawambwa-Mporokoso road,” he said.
Siwakwi said he followed the money trail at FNB and issued a warrant to inspect Andrews and Partners’ account. He said he was provided with a statement, which he analysed and found that on July 27, 2016, there was an incoming transaction from China Harbour amounting to US$299,000.
“There was a US$5,000 balance. On July 27, 2016, there was a withdrawal by Mr K. Kombe amounting to US$5,00 and the balance which remained in the account was US$299,985. On July 28, 2016 there was an outgoing transaction of US$140,000, payment to Lungu Sim. On July 29, 2016, there was another transaction to MSK advocates amounting to US$154,000,” Siwakwi said.
He said he requested for supporting documents which caused the movement of the said funds. The court heard that bank instructions caused the movement of US$154,000 to MSK advocates.
“I analysed this bank transfer information of MSK advocates, details were purchase of property. The said fund transfer were made by Kampamba Kombe on behalf of Andrew and Partners,” he explained.
Investigations reviewed that the money was meant for purchasing of a house in Makeni. Siwakwi averred that investigations at the Ministry of Lands revealed that Mary Lubinga was the owner of the said property in Makeni. He said when he contacted Lubinga, she confirmed that she used to own the said property before she sold it at K1.6 million to Mrs Lilian Chitotela. Siwakwi told magistrate Simusamba that he established that Lubinga, in the company of her daughter, negotiated the terms and conditions relating to the sale of the property with Chitotela in his office at Government Complex where a business card was exchanged.
The witness said the business card indicated that Chitotela was deputy minister in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Child Development (at the time the contract was negotiated). Siwakwi said it was agreed that the transactions were to be handled by respective lawyers. He said after the transactions were concluded, Lubinga was surprised that the contract of sale for the property was in the names of Diris Mukange instead of the people she had negotiated with.
Siwakwi said he established that Lubinga handed over the key to same house in Makeni to Mrs Lillian Chitotela in the presence of her lawyer from MSK Advocates. He said he further conducted a search at Ministry of Lands and established that the Ibex Hill property was in the name of Austin Liato. Siwakwi said on July 28, 2016, he established that a transaction amounting to US$140,000 on Andrew and Partners FNB account was payment for the said property.
“My investigations revealed that the total price of the said property was K1.8 million. K1.4 million was paid though the bank transfer while the balance K400,000 was paid through cash to Austin Liato,” he said.
According to the receipt dated 27 October 2016 amounting to US$5,000 and 4th December 2016 K150,000 and 400,000 was paid through cash.
“Using my intelligence sources, I located the property. My investigations revealed that it was vacant. During my investigations, I discovered that Samuel Sikoswe was employed by Chitotela to man the property,” Siwakwi Said.
He narrated that Chitotela, using his wife Lillian, leased the property in Ibex Hill to Rockview University as he was the beneficial owner of lot number 22163/M in Ibex Hill and lot number 148/50A in Makeni.
“I analysed the contract signed between Rockview and Mrs Chitotela and on the last page, paragraph two, there are some over-writings on the farm in Makeni. The farm number 148/50A Makeni was erased and on top written Twinpalm Ibex Hill,” Siwakwi said.
He told magistrate Simusamba that property number 22163/M which was erased was also a subject of the court proceedings.
“I further established that this contract was prepared by Lillian Chitotela, the overwriting was made by her when she erased farm number 148/50A Makeni and inserted Twinpalm Ibex Hill,” Siwakwi said.
“Since there’s no property number in this contract, I requested Fiswel Kabunda to lead me to this house and my findings were that the house, subject to this contract, is property sub division A of lot number 22183/M Ibex Hill, Lusaka, just behind the American Embassy.”
He added that he further received intelligence information in relation to a letter dated July 12, 2016, where a company called Brut Holdings Limited issued instructions to Andrew and Partners to receive US$300,000 from China habour on its behalf on the pretext that it had done feasibility consultancy services for the upgrading of the Kawambwa – Mporokoso road.
He said when he received the letter, he was puzzled and suspicious of the US$300,000 due to the fact that the amount which was transferred to Andrew and Partners for legal services was at the same time claimed by Brut Holdings limited, asserting that they had done feasibility consultancy services for China Harbour.
“In this letter, Brut Holdings limited was instructing Andrew and Partners to receive the same amount and use the same to purchase two properties that is the one in Makeni and Ibex Hill. My suspicions were that this money was reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime,” Siwakwi said.
He said his suspicions were strengthened because the letter indicated that the property which he had already discovered to be under Chitotela’s control, was mentioned and that they were registered in the names of Diris Mukange who is a niece of Gregory Chibanga, a managing director of Brut Holdings limited.
He testified that the contract between the Road Development Agency and China Harbour was effected on July 22, 2016 and that the letter from Brut Holdings Limited, which instructed Andrew and Partners to receive money from China Harbour on its behalf after doing feasibility studies on the Kawambwa-Mporokoso road project, was dated July 12, 2016.
Siwakwi narrated that he wondered how Brut Holdings knew that RDA would award a contract to China Harbour at the time of writing its letter to Andrew and Partners since there was no contract between China Harbour and RDA.
“I asked myself this golden question: ‘how then did Brut Holdings know that RDA would award a contract to China Harbour?’ This question strengthened my reasonable suspicion on the US$300,000. Because at the time, Brut Holdings Limited through a letter dated July 12, 2016, giving instructions to Andrew and Partners to receive on its behalf US$300,000, by claiming that they had done feasibility studies on behalf of China Harbour on upgrading of the Kawambwa-Mporokoso road, your honour, there was no contract between China Harbour and RDA during this time,” Siwakwi narrated.
He said he concluded that Brut Holdings was a ploy to conceal US$300,000 and that Gregory Chibanga, using the company, disguised the real owner of the said money.
And an executive dean at Rockview University Fiswell Kabunda told the court that Chitotela’s wife, a former student of the learning institution, approached management that she had a property to rent out to the university.
Kabunda said he sent his juniors to assess the property in Ibex Hill area.
“On 17 April we entered into an agreement and we settled for K45,000 as the initial payment and we agreed that we would pay K39,000 for three months and that we would pay K13,000 in installments so that the students could move in,” Kabunda told court.
“I signed the contract on behalf of Rockview and my witness was Mulelye Handela and Mrs Lillian Chitotela also signed together with her witness, Musonda Chitotela.”
He told court that there were two bank statements for payments written Cairo Business Centre and another one which was a refund from Chitotela’s wife, indicating a sum of K27,800 dated May 18, 2017.
“We could not stay in the house for three months because we had differences with Mrs Chitotela, so we were refunded after she assessed the damages caused to the property and other things,” he explained.
During cross-examination, Kabunda said he did not verify the owner of the property with the Ministry of Lands. Kabunda said he does not know whether Chitotela’s wife was an agent or not.
“We took it she was the landlord because she was our student. We didn’t bother to check ownership,” he said.
He denied negotiating the terms and conditions nor the transactions with Chitotela. He stated that there was nothing wrong with the transactions. Kabunda said his role was to testify over the property that Rockview had rented. He added that he was not the right person to talk about the matter before court because he does not know the property, which was concealed.