FORMER tourism minister Ronald Chitotela has sued the Anti-Corruption Commission in the Lusaka High Court seeking a declaration that his State Lodge property which was seized by the commission was legally and genuinely acquired.
And Chitotela has submitted that he has genuinely and legitimately earned incomes used to purchase the said property from maize supplied to former agriculture minister Micheal Katambo, Nyimba Milling, Jimbara Merchants Limited, loan obtained from INDO Zambia Bank and other legitimate incomes like parliamentary gratuities.
Meanwhile, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has stayed the warrant of seizure taken out by the Commission on Chitotela’s State Lodge property.
Chitotela has sued the commission, ACC acting director general Silumesi Muchula, and two investigative officers; Gift Tembo and Kopano Chilembo in the Lusaka High Court, constitutional jurisdiction.
He is therefore seeking a declaration that the property which is stand number CHONG/LN-21188/51, State Lodge, Chongwe which is subject to the purported seizure by the commission was legally and genuinely acquired based on the documents provided in his suit.
Chitotela further wants a declaration that ACC’s decision to purport to seize his dwelling house which is the real property is arbitrary, and therefore contravenes Article 17 of the Constitution of Zambia.
He further wants among others, a declaration that the seizure notice issued by the commission dated April 27, 2022 is illegal, therefore, void ab initio and contravenes Articles 17 and 18 of the Constitution of Zambia.
Chitotela stated in his affidavit verifying facts that he was the legal owner of the State Lodge property which was subject to a seizure notice issued pursuant to section 58 of the Anti-Corruption Act no. 3 of 2012.
He stated that the commission had alleged that the said property was acquired using suspected proceeds of crime, and that the fact that the property is still registered in the name of Mr Liu Runmin is confirmation that he had concealed the property.
Chitotela stated that the property was still in the name of the same Runmin because he had not completed the transaction by paying property transfer tax, but all conveyance documents had been executed.
He submitted that the said property was his residential and retirement home and was in no way tainted.
“The petitioner (Chitotela) currently resides at CHONG/LN_21188/51, State Lodge, Chongwe and that is the petitioner’s residential and retirement home. The petitioner’s property is not tainted in any way as it is not a proceed of crime and there is no serious crime the respondents are currently investigating in relation to the property and that I will show hereunder that the seizure effected on my property, Stand no. CHONG/LN_21188/511, State Lodge, Chongwe is out [of] sheer malice and political persecution by the respondents,” the affidavit read.
He further went on to explain how he bought the said property.
“I entered into a contract to purchase the said property as bare land in 2017 with Mr Liu Runmin at the purchase price of K1,000,000. The payment of the said purchase price was made in five installments, the first installment being K200,000 which was paid on 31st January, 2018 through my Zambia National Commercial Bank account number 1163559100139, second installment being K300, 000 which was done through Indo-Zambia Bank account number 0141030001635 to Mr Liu Runmin account on the 30th April, 2018. Third installment being K100, 000 paid on the 20th June, 2018, fourth installment being K250, 000 paid on 1st December, 2018, and the fifth and last installment being K150, 000 was paid on 21st March, 2019,” Chitotela stated.
Chitotela stated that the K300, 000 payment which was paid through bank transfer (Indo-Zambia Bank) to Runmin’s account on April 30, 2018 came from the K700, 000 paid by Katambo as part-payment in relation to the maize supplied to him on the contract dated March 29, 2018 for the total contract sum of US$406, 000.
He stated that after buying the said bare land on August 9, 2018, he entered into a construction of the house contract with AZADI INVESTMENT LIMITED at the total cost of USD300, 000.
“The said AZADI INVESTMENT LIMITED started the construction of the said house after being paid the first installment of K500, 000 on the 24th of August 2018 through bank transfer. The source of these funds can be clearly traced from the bank statement which the respondents never requested for. The construction works are still ongoing, but the petitioner in June, 2021 shifted into the said house which he still occupies to date and that the contractor has suspended works because of non-payment of what is outstanding to the contractor,” Chitotela stated.
He submitted that to date he had since paid the said AZADI INVESTMENT LIMITED K3,150, 000 only, leaving the balance of K6, 650, 000.
Chitotela argued that he had genuinely and legitimately earned incomes used to purchase the plot from Runmin where the house is built and the money paid to AZADI INVESTMENT LIMITED for construction works so far carried out.
He further submitted that he had been in business of buying white maize from Kawambwa District since 2015 which maize, in turn, he had supplied to amongst others, Katambo and Nyimba Milling.
“I have been in business of buying white maize from Kawambwa District in the Luapula Province of the Republic of Zambia since 2015 which maize in turn I have supplied to amongst others Zondani Katambo, Nyimba Milling, Jimbara Merchants Limited whom I have contracts with. I have employed people who buy maize on my behalf and when maize is bought, the number of bags, name, and National Registration Card Number of each individual the maize is bought from are indicated on a paper which the one buying signs and a copy is given to the one sold maize,” Chitotela submitted.
“On the 29th March, 2018 I entered into a contract to supply 2, 800 metric tons white non-GMO maize with Hon. Michael Zondani Katambo for the contract sum of US$406, 000. I did supply the said maize as per contact and was paid. On 26th March, 2019 I obtained a loan of K550, 000 from Indo-Zambia Bank of which part of it was transferred to the contractor to continue with the construction works. Out of the Nyimba Investments Limited contract in 2019 alone, I supplied maize amounting to K5, 263, 490. From January to December 2021, I had received the total payment of K4, 951, 439.06. Leaving the unpaid amount of K312, 050.94. The milling companies collect maize from my satellite depots in Kawambwa where they collect maize to Lusaka and Mansa.”
Chitotela submitted that he was taken aback by the ACC’s conduct and assertion that his property was tainted.
“I purchased all my animals seized on my property from various private game ranches. I have been advised by my advocates which advice I verily believe that if second, third, and forth [respondents] had investigated the matter they could not have taken the malicious decision they have taken to purport to seize Stand Number CHONG/LN_21188/51 situated in State Lodge, Chongwe and going to an extent of inconveniencing my family by chasing us away from our own dwelling house. I have been advised by my advocates which advice I verily believe that the respondents are not mandated to seize any property, and worse off order my family to vacate our dwelling house without my consent or court order in violation of my Constitutional rights to property, and also Constitutional right to privacy,” stated Chitotela.
Meanwhile, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has stayed the warrant of seizure taken out by the Anti-Corruption Commission on Chitotela’s State Lodge property.
On Friday, April 29, ACC seized Chitotela’s property situated in State Lodge, Chongwe
In a statement, ACC spokesperson Queen Chibwe said the seized property was acquired by Chitotela using suspected proceeds of crime and was in fact registered in the name of Liu Runmin, a Lusaka businessman.
But the court has now stayed the said seizure warrant, pending hearing of Chitotela’s application, interparte, to set aside the same.
“Upon reading the affidavit sworn by the respondent (Chitotela) filed herein; and upon hearing counsel for the respondent; it is ordered that the warrant of seizure dated the 27th April, 2022 taken out by the applicant (ACC) herein is hereby stayed forthwith pending hearing of the application inter-partes for an order to set aside the warrant of seizure before the honourable F Sato in chambers on May 9, 2022,” read the ex-parte order.