LUSAKA businessman Valden Findlay, his wife Dessislava and his companies have petitioned the Lusaka High Court, demanding the release of their seized bank accounts on grounds that they have not been duly informed of the reasons for the seizure or the allegations against them.

Findlay argues that the funds held in his bank accounts are derived from rental income and various business activities he has ordinarily been engaged in, with respective tax liabilities having been duly paid and which funds can easily be verified and explained.

The petitioners, Findlay, Dessislava, Dessislava Findlay (trading as D Findlay and Associates), Twatotela Properties Limited, Chrismar Earth Moving Equipment Limited and Greenview Service Providers Limited have cited the Attorney General as the respondent.

The petitioners are seeking a declaratory order that the seizure notices issued by the Drug Enforcement Commission on their bank accounts with First Alliance Bank (Z) Limited without reasonable ground to believe that the funds are derived from or acquired from money laundering are illegal, wrongful and in contravention of their constitutional rights.

They also want a declaratory order that the search conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission at Findlay’s private residence in New Kasama and at Langani Ranch, Chisamba, without a valid court order, a valid search warrant, in the petitioner’s absence and without their consent is illegal, wrongful and in contravention of their constitutional rights.

The petitioners are further seeking compensation in money terms for the unlawful arbitrary seizure of their funds, for the destruction and damage at the residential property in New Kasama and for the willful conduct of the law enforcement agencies aimed at tarnishing the petitioners’ reputation and punishing them without affording them a fair hearing.

According to a petition filed in court, January 31, the petitioners stated that Findlay was the director of Twatotela Properties Limited, Chrismar Earth Moving Equipment Limited and Greenview Service Providers Limited.

The petitioners stated that on August 16, 2021 following the announcement of the general elections’ results, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) directed the freezing or suspension of the Twatotela Properties Limited Kwacha account number 101023160002 and D Findlay and Associates Kwacha account number 1010231001 and 1010231004, both held at First Alliance Bank (Z) limited, without any formal communication to any of them.

“On August 30, 2021, the petitioners’ advocates Messrs Makebi Zulu Advocates formally communicated and wrote to FIC to provide details and supporting documentation explaining the bank account transactions of the aforesaid bank accounts belonging to Twatotela Properties limited and D Findlay and Associates. On August 20, 2021 the Drug Enforcement Commission issued a public statement circulating on various internet social media platforms that Findlay’s bank accounts had been frozen by the commission. There has never been any communication, public or private to any of the other petitioners by DEC or any other law enforcement agency,” they stated.

“On various dates following the announcement of the result of the country’s general election, a number of false, malicious and defamatory publications appeared on numerous internet social media platforms against Findlay alleging that he had perpetrated financial crimes, money laundering and should therefore be subjected to investigation, prosecuted for alleged crimes and had generally abused his friendship or acquaintance with the former president of Zambia and that Findlay should therefore be dealt with by the authorities.”

The petitioners stated that on September 3, 2021, they received formal communication from First Alliance Bank that their accounts were seized by the DEC.

“The petitioners find that the actions by the aforesaid DEC in seizing the petitioners’ bank accounts in a secretive, ex-parte manner without informing any of the petitioners is a total violation of their rights to be informed in sufficient detail what allegations they face before an arbitrary action is taken by the aforesaid authorities so as to ensure that the petitioners are able to make a meaningful representation and so obtain relief from such punitive arbitrary measures taken. The petitioners have since been unable to transact on any of the said bank accounts,” read the petition.

“There are no reasonable grounds upon which the DEC can believe that the funds are derived from or acquired from money laundering or any other illegal activities. Your petitioners believe that their rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty have been breached as they have been punished, condemned and punitive measures taken against them without any trial and ahead of any process.”