FINANCIAL Intelligence Centre director general Mary Chirwa says the institution has been letdown for some time due to lack of corresponding vigour from the courts and law enforcement agencies to fully prosecute financial crimes.
“We are working hand-in-hand with the law enforcement agencies to strategise around this thing…I can confirm that the President is not speaking from without. He is at the helm of this country and he is getting reports from different sectors – from ourselves (FIC), from the central bank and other institutions,” says Mary. “From the FIC point of view, I can confirm that yes, we have seen transactions on different accounts where people are trying to externalise money to offshore jurisdictions. We are following upon those things. We have been [letdown] for some time. But I should say that the trend is getting better and better. And we are seeing that they are working on the cases – maybe with their own priorities and whatever else is in their database. They also receive reports from other angles, not only from FIC. We would love them to deal with these cases at a more-faster rate. If I give you the quarterly returns that we have, maybe out of 10 reports that we disseminate to law enforcement agencies, you’ll find that only one is closed.”
We agree with Mary and share in her genuine concern. And we all know where this inertia among our law enforcement agencies is coming from. The first person to dismiss FIC reports was Edgar Lungu when he was president of our country. On arrival at the Zambia Air Force airbase in Lusaka from Ndola in the evening of Wednesday, June 5, 2019, Edgar was asked about the latest Financial Intelligence Centre report which detailed suspected money laundering, corruption and bribery involving K6.1 billion, but he dismissed it as speculation because no minister was named. When asked by a journalist if he had sight of the FIC report, Edgar admitted but literally dismissed its contents as speculation.
“I’ve got it (report). I had it before it was released. But which minister was mentioned there? Tell me, one, two, three, four, five (beckoning to surrounding journalists). Which minister was mentioned there? This is where the problem is. There is too much fertile ground for speculation. So, we have to look at the law and ask ourselves; is this serving us; because it just says ‘PEP’ Politically Exposed Person did this. Now we can’t afford having ‘Kachepa’ because that is a Kachepa for me. Kachepa is a gossiper. What the Financial Intelligence Centre is supposed to do is to report to ZRA, to report to Zambia Police, to report to Drug Enforcement Commission Anti-Money Laundering Unit etc,’’ said Edgar. “Now if I go ‘Umu mumunzi mwafa munthu; so ba mupaya ni baja, sini baziba sininga ulule (If I just say in this village there is a murder – somebody has been killed, the perpetrator is a that one, I don’t know them, I can’t reveal), it is not helping us. As for me, I have got that report. I’ve had it for a while. Before I went to the Copperbelt, I took time to study the principal law – the financial intelligence Act, I looked at the regulations. I think we have to sit down and agree and think through this thing. I know that what is happening over there is gossip. It is not helping us. It is not helping the Republic. And it is not helping all those well-meaning people who are stakeholders. I can’t go public and say Politically Exposed Person did this and then I leave it to people to construct it – no. What I know is that that law is very clear. It says that unit (FIC) will render their report to the Minister; the Minister will table it before Parliament; but meanwhile as they go, they discover friends, they’ll say… there’s a fire there, the police will move in… there’s a fire there, the DEC will move…Anti-Money Laundering unit, ZRA…That’s how come we have recovered some things for ZRA to follow through. But what we are seeing is fuelling gossip. I am telling you what the law says and what I know.
What is happening is if I see a thief stealing, I go to the police and I say that man is stealing, I suspect so, the police are supposed to move in and arrest him. If I see somebody doing corruption, I will go to ACC, but I cannot go public and say it before I even tell the police; or I tell the police and the police don’t act; if the police don’t act or ACC don’t act, I am supposed to query and say why are you not acting when I have already told you? So, the law has to be revisited so that the FIC – if they see anything wrong, they tell the police, and if the police don’t act or the ACC don’t act, they follow it up and say ba police ta bauza (we’ve informed the police) about something wrong we’ve seen but they are not doing anything. We are being played; it’s a mind game…and for me, tell me which minister? And if FIC tells you that things are wrong, they should be questioning their brother or sister agencies to say ‘we told you that things are going wrong here, but why haven’t you acted?’ That law needs to be revisited; it is just creating poison among us. So, do you know anyone in that report who stole money or stole six billion or whatever? Do you know anybody? You don’t! But if you read through the Act with the regulations, you get to know. I encourage fellow citizens to read…to understand what the law says. Don’t just speak on the basis of social media. I want to believe that we all mean well. Those that don’t mean well should be in jail. Tell me which minister is mentioned? Ask them which unit did you refer this matter to? This is a revenue matter, what has Kingsley Chanda [Commissioner General] (and ZRA) done…this is a crime by ACC standards…that’s what you do…not Edgar Lungu is doing this and this and this…namikanilani (I am saying no!)…I refuse to be part of this ‘mfwiti mfwiti, mfwiti’ kuti (witch, witch…where?)”
This is where the problem started from. Because Edgar supported and abated corruption, he started attacking his own government institutions which he should have been defending. And these attacks were followed up by Edgar’s subordinates and surrogate organisations. Edgar was practicing a culture of secrecy as if this country was his personal company.
Prashant Bhushan advises against this behaviour as follows, “The main reasons for the growth and institutionalisation of corruption are a culture of secrecy with lack of transparency, and weak institutions for securing the accountability of public servants, such as the vigilance bodies, the criminal investigative agencies and the judiciary.”
It was only under Edgar’s administration where you could have a president of the republic attacking state institutions for executing their mandate. The Financial Intelligence Centre has been executing its mandate as enshrined in the Act. But this did not go down well with Edgar and his minions. They felt exposed by the FIC reports – their corrupt deals were led to the fore.
Their corruption left all state institutions paralysed, including the judiciary.
The nation expects better. Not a mockery of justice, exerting undue pressure on State institutions that defend rule of law – accountability and transparency.
So far, pronouncements from Hakainde Hichilema have given hope to the investigative wings and the general public. Investigative agencies seem to have been motivated to act, to get back to work. But it must not be a kneejerk reaction but doing their mandate diligently.
We have seen DEC move in and seize some people’s bank accounts and other assets. Mary could also say what she said on television because she sensed that there was political will from the Head of State. We doubt if Mary would have said these things during the PF regime. Nevertheless, we have always known the sacrifices of staff at FIC. We stood with them during those difficult times and we do so now. This is the time for all investigative wings, courts and other public institutions to reclaim their mandate. This will help them quickly regain public confidence which had eluded them in the last seven years of Edgar’s reign. This is so because that time they went to bed with the oppressor and turned their back on the oppressed. This should certainly not be the case.
Zambia belongs to all her citizens, including institutions that they have created for themselves. Abraham Lincoln reminds that, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”
Edgar had problems believing FIC reports because he could not justify how he suddenly became wealthy after living a very humble life before he became president. To date, Edgar cannot explain how his financial fortune grew from K2 million in 2015 to K23 million in mid-2016. We think he has even surpassed this figure now; no wonder the Electoral Commission of Zambia has been refusing to release asset and liability declarations by all presidential candidates in the last general election. Yet, the law compels them to do so, but they could not do it. We wonder the ECZ’s motivations!
Speaking of public service, Jack Lew explicitly says it all, thus, “I think there’s no higher calling in terms of a career than public service, which is a chance to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the world.”