Calls from the Patriotic Front to disband the Financial Intelligence Centre are unfortunate because we are doing exactly what President Edgar Lungu says in his speeches about the fight against corruption, says FIC board chairman John Kasanga.
And Kasanga says it is shocking that there is such a fuss about the 2017 trends report when the centre has published similar data in the past.
Meanwhile, Kasanga says heightened public interest on financial crimes is good because leaders are reminded that they have to be accountable to the people.
In a Special Interview with CBC TV aired Monday evening, Kasanga challenged PF officials to specify which information contained in the trends report they did not agree with when he was asked to comment on calls to disband the centre.
“It is unfortunate because what the FIC is doing, we are actually discharging the mandate for which it was established on behalf of the government and it is the PF government that is ruling and I would like to advise members of the Patriotic Front to go back and read the speeches of His Excellency the President and his take about corruption and they should tell me if what FIC is doing is inconsistent with what the President has been saying,” Kasanga said.
“If they say we are not doing something that is right, as a public institution, we should be subject to scrutiny, we need to be made accountable. Let them come and say ‘this is inconsistent or is illegal’ and of course we will discuss whether it’s us or those who come after us. The important thing is the institution is not only critical to this economy and protecting the integrity of our financial systems, it is also a way of assuring the international community that Zambia is good for business, we are able to curtail corruption effectively and these other financial crimes. We need to give an international assurance that Zambia is a good investment destination and if our colleagues in the Patriotic Front feel that because we disseminate a trends report then we have done something wrong, let them come and explain how it is wrong and what is contained in the Trends report that they don’t agree with.”
He observed that apart from accusing FIC of spreading rumours, none of the PF officials had specified which information they did not agree with in the report.
“No one has said what they don’t agree with, they have said we are spreading rumours. I will be very honest with you, where we are not satisfied that there is actionable intelligence, we do not disseminate. We only disseminate where we know there is actionable intelligence. We do not disseminate rumours; it is not possible. First of all, even if we disseminate, the people who act on those reports are law enforcement anyway,” he said.
And Kasanga said it was shocking that the 2017 report had caused such a fuss when similar case studies had been published in past years.
“I am actually equally perplexed that 2017 has received such reactions. In a way, it is good because it puts the matter in the public arena for debate. What is important is that the public need to be informed. Let them put balanced views across. If there are those who still claim this was a rumour, I would suggest that they give details as to why they think it was a rumour. That we are disseminating rumours. We would be very keen to hear specific things. If they think our action is not in line with the law, let us hear what they mean by that,” he said.
Kasanga highlighted some of the case studies published in previous years, stressing that no names of individuals or institutions were mentioned.
“In any of our illustrations, you will not see a single name. Either of a ministry, person or company. We sanitise this but we are illustrating how financial crimes are being committed so that people are aware, that’s all we do. And if I show you the 2016 report, I will show you similar charts. In 2016, we had cases of an NGO and law firms being used to move funds amounting to US$12 million which they started sharing. We showed a chart of how that money moved and what it was used for. This was 2016, we provided this involving a matter of US$2 billion where NGOs were receiving money from overseas when actually money was being shared within the country. And then the use of accounts of lawyers to help launder the money. And we also did three case studies last year,” he explained.
“And I want to show you something very interesting, we had a very detailed case study in 2015 where we showed politically exposed persons, how money was moving between relatives, between people coming from tenders. And we did another chart on tax evasion and money laundering, if you study this chart, you will see where the money is coming from, where it is being paid, through what channels and money being used to purchase property and other items were being transferred abroad, in some cases to pay school fees for children, we can show it because these days, you cannot hide money. At one point, money has to pass through a bank or through a transaction and as long as there is a transaction, there can be a trace of that transaction.”
Meanwhile, Kasanga said heightened public interest on financial crimes was good as leaders were reminded that they have to be accountable to the people.
“I think what is happening is that there is a height in public interest and that, I believe is good for the government to be able to hear public sentiments and that is important because we must be held publicly accountable,” he said.
Kasanga noted that financial crimes could not be fought by the FIC alone as it had to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
“I think financial crimes cannot be resolved by the FIC or any law enforcement. It requires the active participation of all citizens and all persons resident in this country. They could be expatriates, they could just be other none Zambians, everyone has to participate because for these activities to take place, they involve the same ordinary Zambians. That requires a concerted efforts, we must make is uncomfortable for people who want to commit financial crimes to feel they can succeed and I really hope even the members within PF who have reservations about our report will agree with me that we need to make this country difficult for people wishing to fight financial crimes. We need a common dedication to that. And at the same time, for as long as I am with FIC, we will always behave in the fullest extent of professional integrity and we will always try to cooperate with our friends in law enforcement, reporting entities because unless we work together, we will never succeed,” Kasanga said.
He also explained Attorney General Likando Kalaluka’s role during the launch of the trends report.
“The Attorney General wears a number of hats. He is the chief lawyer of our government and that position holds that responsibility. But more importantly for us, the Attorney General is chairman of what is called the anti-money laundering authority. There is an anti-money laundering authority which you as the press perhaps need to discuss more so that the public can be informed. That anti-money laundering authority meets every quarter with the representatives of law enforcement, the FIC and various other key actors including the Bank of Zambia. They meet every quarter to review to what extent our country is being exposed to illicit financial flows whether coming in or going out. What are the actions being taken to address this, are there any new developments that need to be shared between the various parties? So he is the chairperson of the anti-money laundering authority. And our FIC is responsible for analysing suspicious transactions that are related to money laundering and the financing of terrorism. So you can see the relationship, why he is the fit and proper person to be the guest of honour and be involved in the launch,” said Kasanga.
“And even last year, he is the one who launched the 2016 reports. In 2015, it was the then Commissioner General of the Zambia Revenue Authority because other senior government officials were not available. There has never been any fuss about launching the report or even the contents.”