GOVERNMENT has claimed that it fights corruption every day of the year.
Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya has wondered why two, three cases relating to tax evasion in the 2018 Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report should “obsess and distract” the government from addressing current economic turbulence, among other responsibilities.
The 2018 FIC on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Trends report has cited nine law firms for facilitating money laundering.
The FIC report, that was released in Lusaka on May 31, revealed an increase in cases of suspicious transactions reported, which now amounts to K6.1 billion.
The Centre revealed that the nine law firms helped criminals to invest and make transactions to foreign accounts.
According to the FIC report, some of the illicit activities that the nine law firms engaged in were to facilitate the acquisition of property, land and motor vehicles on behalf of the money launderers.
The undisclosed law firms were reported to have been engaged in money laundering scams amounting to K365 million.
Siliya said on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme, that the FIC report was not special because it highlighted what was already being combated throughout the year.
“This government has demonstrated its commitment [to fight corruption]. The fact that we are even talking about it here is because we are such an open society. Even rumours, facts sometimes get lost along the way,” she said.
“The report is not special in the sense that this job is done every day, 365 days a year. Every day there is work on fighting corruption in this country. So, there is nothing special about the report in the sense that it beats what happens 365 days a year. This is just one part of the whole fight against corruption. The FIC does its job – collecting intelligence. The OP (Office of the President) does its job, the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) does its job, the police do their job and finally, we expect that justice will happen in the courts.”
The minister admonished the FIC, saying it was alarming the public by merely sharing intelligence information.
She, however, indicated that the government was not averse of the FIC because the Centre was part of the government.
“Just to say to the public [that] money moved from here to there but the explanations are not being given, sometimes you are just alarming the public. That’s why intelligence, by nature, is not for consumption by everybody; it’s supposed to be for the professionals so that where that intelligence has been verified then it can go to court,” Siliya explained.
“As the investigative wings take that information, along the way, some of those cases may fall off because there will be explanations. Others will ultimately find themselves in court. So, that’s why we are saying it’s extremely dangerous to share raw intelligence before it’s verified by other [investigative] wings and they have concluded their investigations.”
She added that the government could not allow one component of it to begin to consider that: “it is above everybody and cannot follow its own law, including Section five of the FIC.”
The minister pointed out that the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) was every day busy working to offset possible tax evasion.
“When the FIC has intelligence that somebody is evading tax, instead of distracting the public, they have to take that information to ZRA. ZRA will announce if somebody has been evading tax,” she said.
“So, why should two, three cases relating to tax evasion in the report obsess and distract us from doing work for the people of Zambia [like] addressing the turbulence in the economy, addressing the mealie meal prices, addressing issues of mining on the Copperbelt? That’s what the Zambians are looking for! But here we are, the whole nation, distracted by…. There are other cases outside the FIC report. But we are being distracted by only a few [cases] and yet we should allow the investigative wings to do their work.”
Siliya underscored that the government’s position on the FIC report was that its telling contents were intelligence information.
“It’s not for public consumption until it has been through the processes that should prove it and take it to court. Then we can hear the facts in court and justice can be done,” noted Siliya.