Attorney General Likando Kalaluka says fighting financial crimes is not an easy undertaking and he sometimes instructs law enforcement agencies to drop certain cases to avoid getting the state sued for compensation.

And Kalaluka says the uproar that followed the publication of the 2017 FIC trends report was simply a “healthy debate” which he hopes will continue.

Meanwhile, Kalaluka has welcomed calls for former and serving government officials to be subjected to lifestyle audits but says Zambia already has laws which require people being appointed to high office to declare their assets.

Responding to questions after launching the 2018 FIC Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report at Intercontinental Hotel, Friday, Kalaluka said contrary to popular belief, law enforcement agencies were doing everything possible to clampdown on criminals involved in illicit financial flows.

Kalaluka, however, said it was not an easy task because criminals were very sophisticated.

“The Financial Intelligence Centre normally reviews or acquires intelligence information. For instance, the Financial Intelligence Centre is able to tell whenever you all of a sudden receive a big chunk of money in your account and in most instances, that may be viewed to be suspicious transactions. So the FIC will have ability to trace that so when they take that report to the law enforcement agency, there is a lot that the law enforcement agencies have to do. For instance, as Attorney General, I can mention here that on a weekly basis, I receive maybe 45 cases where the Drug Enforcement Commission have frozen an account and it is now a year, and most lawyers are writing to say ‘why have you frozen our client’s account for a year?’ And they are pushing, they are suing, I end up engaging the DPP to find out what’s happening and she says ‘we are still doing investigations’. So this is continuous and what is in the trends report is a report of the intelligence which the Financial Intelligence Centre has come up with in terms of suspicious transactions. The law enforcement agencies do not just sleep, they actually take steps. Remember, we have been mentioning that financial crimes are complex, it is not something which can easily be traced and proved in court,” Kalaluka said.

He said most investigations required officer to travel abroad and that was costly.

“Most of the times, you find that most of the finical crimes, especially to do with huge sums of money, sometimes the collaborators are outside the country so there are a lot of processes, it is not something which is, I am not trying to water down the report, but what I am trying to say is, the fact that these disseminations are done, does not mean that the law enforcement agencies are not doing anything about it, in fact, they are always doing something about them and I have to confirm, even my office is involved in some instances. Many are times we have to allow our officers to travel outside the country and I have to give that approval for them to go and do their investigations. It is not an easy task and even traveling outside the country for instance is also not easy, we need resources, how often are we going to be sending our officers to go and do investigations out of the country?” Kalaluka asked.

He said he sometimes instructed law enforcement agencies to drop certain cases to avoid getting the state sued by subjects of the investigations.

“Also, I have to engage constantly with the DPP, with the DG, Anti Corruption, with the commissioner of the Drug Enforcement Commission to discuss individual cases, why are we delaying? And sometimes, we get to an extent where we say ‘to avoid being sued, let’s leave it’ because you can delay sometimes for three months, for four months then thereafter you just say ‘well, maybe we are exposing ourselves’. So there are a lot of cases, when you talk about how much money government is paying in terms of compensation, most of that comes again from the fact that the period within which the investigative wings would take to investigate these crimes is longer and sometimes when these people dash to court, they get an order and government has to pay,” he said.

“These are not crimes that are average in nature, people actually sit down and plot how they can ensure that we don’t trace them. And people come up with justifications. What is important is to acknowledge that there is a problem and now we are taking steps, the more we debate, hence my reference to the healthy debate, the more we talk about these things, we are bringing to the fore our shortcomings but it is not something where we should maybe place blame on the law enforcement agencies, I can tell you from my office that the law enforcement agencies are pursing these and in some instances, I actually tell them to say ‘well, just release them, drop it because we will be sued’. So these are not matters that are easy to pursue but I can still give you the assurance that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we fight these crimes to the best of our ability.”

And Kalaluka said he hoped the “healthy debate” which characterized the publication of the the 2017 FIC trends report would continue.

“I was about to say that it is my sincere gratitude and honor to be accorded this opportunity to officiate at the 2018 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report published by the Financial Intelligence Centre but then I noticed that I was being thanked, specifically, for having come this year considering what happened last year. I think what happened last year, to me and to government, is actually a healthy debate. It was a healthy debate that followed the report such as the one we are going to publish today. It is hoped that following this launch today, there will also be a very healthy debate like it was last year,” he said.

“I believe a coherent, coordinated and effective commitment to fight corruption, money laundering, tax crimes and other illicit flows and to promote the integrity and transparency is now crucial to restore the citizen’s confidence in our institutions. Together, we can achieve a lot. With these few remarks, it is now my rare honor and privilege and I mean rare honor and privilege, it is not something I have been dreading, it is something which I, on behalf of government, have been looking forward to and we hope the launch of this report will still excite and attract enough debate from you the stakeholders and members of the public to ensure that we sensitive and bring to the fore the ills of corruption.”

Meanwhile, when asked if he supported calls for former and serving government officials to undergo lifestyle audits, Kalaluka said, “I have no problems to say that is welcome.”

And responding to a followup question on whether Zambia had sufficient laws regarding declaration of assets by public officers, Kalaluka said he felt the laws were sufficient but was open to better recommendations.

“For now, the law does require those who are appointed into public or high office to declare their assets. I can confirm to you for instance that the process of me being appointed as Attorney General, I had to declare everything that I had, I had to list down the vehicles, the houses and everything. I am not too sure whether that is insufficient. So, in my view, unless I get further information, I would like to believe that is enough but unless we get to hear on what are the shortcomings in terms of what is being done so far, then we will be happy to incorporate whatever recommendations may come in,” said Kalaluka