The Patriotic Front says the Financial Intelligence Centre’s justification for publishing “classified information” is dissatisfactory because it has failed to cite pieces of legislation which empowers the centre to do so.

On Monday, FIC board chairman John Kasanga responded to various attacks on the centre since it published its 2017 trends report, saying it was mandated to share general findings with the public.

He said contrary to accusations that the FIC was in the habit of spreading rumors, every piece of information contained in the reports was backed which factual evidence which could be used to prosecute criminals.

Kasanga also observed that with technological advancements, it was very hard for people to hide proceeds of crime as they would easily be traced after a transaction.

“People need to appreciate that in this time and age, there is no single financial transaction that can’t be traced. You can play around with money downstream but as long as you are going to pay someone, that person will purchase something or they will put money in accounts or they will bury, but then they won’t use it but somehow, money has to go through a bank at whatever point or it has to be a payment for a property and as long as there is that transaction, you can trace a suspicious transaction…I would say it is difficult for criminals to hide their proceeds of crime. Even if they take them to a jurisdiction that is away, there has to be a process of taking the money into that jurisdiction. And international currencies go through payment systems that still pick up that transaction,” said Kasanga.

“They might be in a jurisdiction where you cannot go and get the details but you know that that money has gone into that jurisdiction. So I think there is need to increase sensitisation at all levels, both in government and even the general public that in this time and age, it is very difficult to hide a transaction. It is impossible.”

But reacting to Kasanga’s remarks in a statement sent to News Diggers! Tuesday, PF media director Sunday Chanda stated that the FIC board chair should have cited pieces of legislation which empowered them to publish their findings.

“While Mr. Kasanga endeavored to justify FIC’s decision to publish its findings to the general public, he failed to give the interviewer any legal backing for their actions except to make claims which are not backed by the Act establishing the Centre. In short, he was not being candid, he was arguing as if playing to the gallery when he must be citing the provisions that allows for their actions and or inactions. In the interview, Mr. Kasanga states that information contained in the financial trends report has factual evidence that can be easily used to prosecute suspected criminals, adding that perpetrators have nowhere to run. Again we wish to challenge Mr. Kasanga to cite circumstances in which FIC’s information can be used to prosecute if not by one way – tendering it before law enforcement agencies for investigations. Mr. Kasanga ought to know, in case he mistakes FIC for a law enforcement agency, FIC only exists for purposes of collecting raw information and as such it’s reports are nothing but intelligence reports whose contents are not prosecutorial in nature,” Chanda stated.

“Mr Kasanga further ought to know that it was not the intention of the crafters of the FIC Act to see a reincarnation of the feared Special Investigations Team for Economy and Trade (SITET) under UNIP, a terror monster used by the then one-party-state to terrorise businesses and political enemies under the cover of investigating economic crimes. On the contrary, the purposiveness for establishment of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) is exactly that! An intelligence arm of the state specialising in gathering and providing information related to suspected financial and economic crimes and also help alert or flag financial support to terrorism activities.”

He insisted that Kasanga had misguided himself on the legality of publishing FICA findings.

“Mr. Kasanga claims FIC has a mandate to release its findings and the cases that it submits to the law enforcement agencies. We challenge him to cite the provisions from the Act to back his claims, otherwise he has clearly misguided himself! We wish to put it to Mr. Kasanga that according to the Act that establishes the Centre (Financial Intelligence Centre No. 46 of 2010 and Act no.4 of 2016) the FIC gathers this information from banks, financial institutions and others but must submit such information to law Enforcement Agencies and investigative wings and similar foreign entities related to cross border and international crimes,” Chanda stated.

“Mr. Kasanga ought to know that FIC’s own law that regulates the Unit mandates it to provide its findings to competent authorities (law Enforcement Agencies) and the Act forbids publication of this information to the public. The Act provides that the Board is appointed by the President. He appoints the Chairperson and four persons with the experience in law, financial analysis, accounting, forensic auditing and financial investigations. From the above it is clear that the Board is qualified enough even without reminding them of the law to work in a professional manner.”

He advised Kasanga to take a fresh look at the FIC Act No. 46 of 2010 and Act no.4 of 2016 to appreciate that it was not a law enforcement agency.

“FIC information is raw and not prosecution material as it is intelligence information and usually sourced from third-parties. This information however, is actionable, but would require further investigations and verification to make it meet the pre-trial stage standard. At this stage, like all intelligence information, it is not fit for prosecution but for information and leads. FIC information has to be further processed and should not be put out to the public as it alerts the alleged criminal suspect and also endangers opportunities and effort to a successful prosecution. The Act in section 5 only gives FIC the right to educate the public but not to disclose the details. The Act further prescribes formal communication between law enforcement agencies and not with the public,” stated Chanda.

“We are therefore concerned at Mr. Kasanga’s grand-standing and populist manner taken to even jeopardise its work by making these unverified, un-researched information to the gallery. The perceived rise of corruption and lack of transparency cannot make us regress to oppressive instruments and mechanisms that not only harm our economy but the rights and freedoms of citizens. It was not the intention of the crafters that the FIC Act No. 46 of 2010 and Act no.4 of 2016 should become a law repugnant to fundamental rights to a free trial and right to innocence until proven guilty.”