THE Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says it will prove that Uziel Bashire, a Tanzanian national, is not the beneficial owner of the infamous 48 houses as he does not have capacity to own land in Zambia.
ACC has further submitted to the Lusaka High Court that it followed the procedure of forfeiting the properties in dispute to the State.
This is a matter in which three people have sued ACC in the Lusaka High Court, seeking an order that Bashire is the beneficial owner of the 48 houses which the anti-corruption body seized and as such, he should be granted possession of the properties.
Bashire, who is currently residing in Norway, Zuberi Bigawa, also a Tanzanian national and Bashire’s cousin, as well as Charles Loyana, a senior accountant at the Ministry of Finance, also want a declaration that the notice issued pursuant to the ACC (Disposal of Recovered Property) Regulations, 2004 directed to Loyana and other individuals regarding Bashire’s properties no longer had effect in light of the rightful owner claiming the properties.
The three represented by Willis Muhanga of Messrs AKM Legal Practitioners, further want a declaration that the arbitrary seizure and continuation of holding on of the properties by ACC despite the claim made by the rightful owner was unlawful and illegal.
Bashire, Bigawa and Loyana also want an Order for ACC to account and pay to Bashire all the income received as rentals from the date of the seizure to the date of the Order and or in the alternative, mesne profits.
However, in its defence filed in the Lusaka High Court, ACC has denied the claims, saying Bashire, Bigawa and Loyana are not entitled to any of the reliefs they were seeking in the matter or at all.
The Commission stated that it did not agree with the plaintiffs’ claim that Loyana, on different dates, received money from Bigawa to purchase a number of Plots from Lombe Bwalya & Associates, as the same was within the personal knowledge of the plaintiffs.
It, however, added that in a statement to it, Loyana denied having bought any property from Lombe Bwalya & Associates and that he shall therefore be put to strict proof.
ACC also denied the plaintiffs’ claims that when the first 24 houses were completed, Loyana’s wife, Suzan Sinkala, assisted to apply for connection of electricity and that the 24 units were registered at ZESCO in her name and that further, the Tenancy Agreements for the units were also executed in her name.
It stated that the same was within the personal knowledge of the plaintiffs.
ACC stated that Loyana’s wife, in a statement, indicated that she had only made one or two applications on behalf of other people and not the 24 applications alleged by the plaintiffs.
It, however, admitted that it was served with a letter of claim by Messrs Mambwe, Siwila and Lisimba Advocates which stated that the properties were owned by Chali Chitala (a lawyer who, according to the plaintiffs, was identified to help them deal with the issue of ownership of the property [24 units] in Bashire’s favour).
ACC denied the claims by the plaintiff that Chitala signed forms which resulted in the Tenancy Agreements for the 24 units being effected in his name, stating that the same was within the personal knowledge of the plaintiffs.
It stated that Chitala denied ever executing any documents relating to the ownership of the properties in dispute, adding that the plaintiffs shall hence be put to strict proof.
“ACC shall further aver that Mr Chali Chitala denied owning the said properties and ever instructing Messrs Mambwe, Siwila and Lisimba Advocates. In fact, Mr Chali Chitala requested Messrs Mambwe, Siwila and Lisimba Advocates to retract the said letter, failure to which he was going to report them to the Legal Practitioners Committee for acting without instructions, among others. Consequently, Messrs Mambwe, Siwila and Lisimba Advocates retracted the said letter,” ACC stated.
The commission, however, admitted that a statement was issued to the media that the properties in dispute had been disowned by Chitala.
“The defendant (ACC) shall prove that the first plaintiff (Bashire) is not the beneficial owner of the properties as he does not have capacity to own land in Zambia. The defendant followed the procedure of forfeiting the properties in dispute to the State,” ACC stated.
It stated that the plaintiffs were not entitled to any of the reliefs they were seeking.
In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs had stated that Bashire was involved in international business among others investing in Real Estate, while Bigawa was involved in provision of general construction services.
The trio stated that in 2011, Bashire decided to invest in real estate in Zambia.
The plaintiffs added that to achieve this, Bashire, through a Power of Attorney dated November 25, 2011, appointed his cousin Bigawa and gave him power to nominate and delegate to a trusted Zambian to purchase and develop real estate properties in Zambia for which Bashire would be the beneficial owner and or subsequently as an absolute owner.
Bashire, Bigawa and Loyana stated that pursuant to the said Power of Attorney, Bigawa searched for a trusted Zambian and finally settled for Loyana who, by a Special Power of Attorney dated January 5, 2012, was appointed to, among others, negotiate, sign and execute with the seller any document related to any real estate purchased by him on behalf of Bashire.
“Bigawa will aver that he received various amounts of money from Bashire through various Tanzanian payment systems which he withdrew and converted to the Zambian Kwacha, brought it to Zambia and gave cash to Loyana who signed for it and paid to Lombe Bwalya & Associates. Once a plot was identified and part payment made towards it, Lombe Bwalya & Associates granted access to him and he commenced construction works on behalf of Bashire,” read the claim further.
He stated that upon learning that his properties were seized by ACC, he travelled to Zambia and was interviewed by ACC officers.
Bashire said he explained how he was sending money to Bigawa, his cousin, for the purchase of plots and construction of houses in Zambia and further explained to the officers that he had instructed Bigawa and Loyana to engage a lawyer to help him deal with the issue of ownership of houses in accordance with the Zambian Laws.
The plaintiffs stated that despite Bashire explaining that he was the beneficial owner of the properties, ACC had continued holding on to the properties illegally and without any lawful justification.