In this audio, President Edgar Lungu’s Spokesperson Amos Chanda discloses that State House is watching with frustration the happenings at the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and a major decision will be made soon.
And Chanda says State House cannot determine whether or not attacks directed at FIC director-general Mary Tshuma are unjustified because she put pressure on law enforcement agencies by coming up with an extraordinary Trends Report.
Speaking on the side-lines of an Oasis Forum – organised public discussion in Lusaka, Wednesday evening, Chanda said he was restrained from giving a comprehensive comment on the FIC following the release of its 2017 Trends Report, emphasizing that State House would make a decision over the matter at the right time.
The FIC’s 2017 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report released last month revealed that Zambia incurred losses last year linked to financial crimes such as corruption and tax evasion, among others, amounting to a record-breaking K4.5 billion.
Chanda, however, blamed Tshuma for the public harassment and torment she had suffered from government officials and institutions, saying she allowed the release of intelligence information, which was still under investigation.
“I came to listen and I have listened. But I can tell you because of maximum restraint that I want to exercise given that it all centres on the FIC and given what I know, and given what I am hearing, it’s quite extraordinary that you can sit in a room supposedly full of well-informed people and you go home [to] begin to ask yourself whether you were in the right place? But, ultimately, I came to listen (to the public discussion),” Chanda hesitated as reporters surrounded him to break the State House silence on the FIC report.
Asked if the pressure Tshuma was enduring following the release of the Trends report was unjustified, Chanda insisted that the FIC boss had unfairly put pressure on law enforcement wings.
“She [Tshuma] has put pressure, herself, on law enforcement agencies who are supposed to act on that report, so if those law enforcement agencies are themselves under pressure not to act, let them say so. This country is a democratic state governed by people who are elected in office democratically and they appoint competent people in there. I will not give a categorical answer but I can just highlight the hypocrisy that; is it fair to attack the DPP [Director for Public Prosecutions], the constitutional office holder and praise another in the same meeting and say that, ‘this government institution must be defended?’ Is it right to attack the Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is a government [institution] and urge others to protect one agency? I am making no comment, whatsoever on that because I know that there is a major decision in due course,” Chanda disclosed.
Asked if State House was confident that law enforcement agencies could act on the FIC report given the ongoing intimidations of the FIC and its boss, Chanda said Zambia had functioning law enforcement agencies with law and order.
“Are you seeing any breakdown in law and order? Are you seeing any breakdown in systems? There is a functional democracy [and] an elected government with an elected President, functional democracy, [there is] law and order, the police is functioning, the ACC is functioning, ECZ is functioning, parties are voluntarily taking part in elections and parties are winning elections and others losing elections. It’s a functional democracy. Democracies by their very nature are noisy places; that’s an inherent characteristic of a democracy, that it will contain divergent views at any one point, that’s an inherent characteristic of a democracy. Above all, that inherent characteristic manifests in the freedom of expression that is allowed to citizens. It manifests in the freedom of expression of CSOs. It also manifests in the freedom of expression of law enforcement agencies, it manifests in the freedom of expression of one law enforcement agency under another one. If, for argument sake, hypothetically speaking, one law enforcement agency brings some extraordinary allegation of maybe tax evasion and the tax authority that is tasked to check that evasion tells you, for instance, that they can’t see that evasion, what do you do? Must you kill somebody in order to fulfil the will of one law enforcement agency over the other?” he asked.
And Chanda said the FIC Report had jeopardised investigations of other law entities because its report contained intelligence information.
“I know ZRA has issued tax demands against mining companies, then you see in the FIC Report also there are extraordinary revelations of tax evasion, in my position I can’t comment anymore. [But] is that what they are referring to which ZRA is acting upon? If in fact, they are acting upon that one and that information has been released, does it help ZRA to achieve that call? You know that ZRA has issued tax demands against mining companies, what sort of money can you earn as Stuart (this reporter) in order to be able to evade alone K4.5 billion? What sort of income do you have?” Chanda narrated.
Asked if he could give a time frame in which State House could be expected to issue a response on the FIC Report, Chanda said that would happen at the right time.
“I will not jeopardise anything, no I can’t because government is a much more sophisticated institution than you think. It acts in a fairest possible way, it’s a sum total. The President is democratically-elected and he looks at the country fairly, he looks at police, FIC, ACC, DEC, CSOs fairly. So, he will not give deadlines here and there, he’s studying these matters [and] he’s listening. We are looking with frustration about some of the extraordinary allegations being made. And it’s not up to the President, it is never ever his job to say that whether it’s FIC, DEC or ACC then the President must be policing who should be arrested and who should not be,” said Chanda.
“That he is not going to do, he understands his role very well. If FIC has got people that have been named, who has restrained them from naming them? If the FIC has given the ACC reports and people must be prosecuted, can those people that have been given those reports speak? There must be a functional system where you don’t just put blame where it should not be. The President does not come anywhere within the scheme of things whether it’s from ACC, whether it’s from the police; he will not tell the police who to arrest and who not to, he will not tell FIC who to investigate and who not to. But, as I have said, I am completely restrained; we are not saying anything on FIC because there will be a decision in due course.”
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