An investigations officer from the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that he established during his investigations that Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela was in control of the two properties he is accused of concealing.
And the ACC officer told the court that the Commission received complaints that Chitotela was getting bribes from Chinese contractors.
Meanwhile, the witness explained that how he got puzzled after discovering that Brut Engineering claimed to have been paid by China Harbour for feasibility studies on the Kawambwa-Mporokoso Road on a date that fell before the Road Development Agency actually awarded the contract to the Chinese firm.
This is the matter in which Chitotela and three others are facing four counts of concealing and being in possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime.
It is alleged in one of the counts that Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings Limited, between July 3, 2016 and October 30, last year in Lusaka, concealed lot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni disguised in the names of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
It is further alleged that the trio between the same dates concealed part of subdivision A lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill, Lusaka, disguised in the name of Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
When the matter came up before magistrate David Simusamba for continued trial, Wednesday, Christopher Siwakwi told the court that the commission on June 28, 2017 received corruption allegations against Chitotela.
He said according to the allegations, the minister was in possession of unexplained properties.
“Other allegations were that Ronald Kaoma Chitotela was receiving bribes from Chinese and Local contractors. The complaint was duly authorised by ACC,” he said.
He said he further received information that Farm 148/50A in Makeni and Sub Division A Lot 22163/M in Ibex Hill Lusaka were bought by Chitotela.
“I received further information that the money used to purchase the said properties was suspected to be proceeds of crime. Further information was that the monies used to purchase the said properties originated from China Harbour amounting to US$300,000 whose account was domiciled at Bank of China,” he said.
Siwakwi said he served a warrant at Bank of China to inspect the said account and was provided with a bank statement for China Harbour Engineering Corporation.
He said after analysing the statement, he found that on July 27, 2016, there was US$300,000 outgoing transaction to Andrew and Partners who had an account with FNB.
Siwakwi said the narration of the statement was legal service payment.
He said after interviewing an officer from the bank, he established that China Harbour had a dollar account with Bank of China.
Siwakwi said he further established that on the payment details, it indicated legal services in favour of Andrew and Partners, with US$300,000 attached as a legal services contract between China Harbour and Andrew and Partners.
“The contract was in relation to legal services for upgrading of Kawambwa-Mporokoso road,” he said.
Siwakwi said he followed the money trail at FNB and issued a warrant to inspect Andrews and Partners account.
He said he was provided with a statement which after analysing, he noticed that on July 27, 2016, there was an incoming transaction from China Harbour amounting to US$299,000.
“There was also a US$5,000 balance in the account. On July 27, 2016, there was a withdrawal by Mr K Kombe amounting to US$5,000 and the balance which remained in the account was US$299,985. On July 28, 2016 there was an outgoing transaction of US$140,000, payment to Lungu Sim. On July 29, 2016, there was another transaction to MSK advocates amounting to US$154,000,” Siwakwi said.
“I analysed this bank transfer information of MSK advocates, details where purchase of property. The said fund transfer were made by Kapamba Kombe on behalf of Andrew and partners,” he said.
The witness said investigations reviewed that the funds were for the purchase of the property in Makeni.
Siwakwi said investigations at the Ministry of Lands further reviewed that Mary Lubinga was the owner of the said property in Makeni.
He said when he contacted Lubinga, she confirmed that she used to own the said property before she sold it at K1.6 million.
He said he established that Lubinga in the company of her daughter, negotiated the terms and conditions relating to the sale of the property with Chitotela in his office at Government Complex where a business card was exchanged.
The witness said the business card was indicating that Chitotela was deputy minister in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Child Development (at the time).
Siwakwi said it was agreed and the transactions were to be handled by the respective lawyers.
He said after the negotiations were concluded, Lubinga was surprised that the contract of sale for the property was in the names of Diris Mukange instead of the people she had negotiated with.
Siwakwi said he further established that Lubinga had handed over the key to the same house in Makeni to Mrs Lilian Chitotela in the presence of her lawyer from MSK advocates.
He testified that when he further conducted a search at Ministry of Lands, he established that the Ibex Hill property was in the name of Austin Liato and that payment for the said property was made on July 28, 2016 in a transaction amounting to US$140,000 on Andrew and Partners FNB account.
“My investigations reviewed that the total price of the said property was K1.8 million. K1.4 million was paid though the bank transfer while the balance K400,000, was paid through cash to Austin Liato,” he said.
The officer testified that his investigations further revealed that the said property in Ibex Hill was rented to Rockview University, adding that after he interviewed the administrator for the said university, he established that indeed Chitotela, using his wife Lilian, rented the same property to the university.
He said what he further established during his investigations was that Chitotela was in control of the properties in Makeni and in Ibex Hill.
“A contract was entered into on April 17, 2018 between Lilian Chitotela and Rockview University. I analysed the contract and on the last page-paragraph two, there are some overwriting. The property in Makeni was erased and on top written, Twinpalm Ibex Hill. The property number which was erased is also the subject of these court proceedings,” he said.
“This contract was signed for and on behalf of the landlord by Lilian Chitotela. Witnessed on behalf of the landlord by Musonda Chitotela. What I established from this contract was that Ronald Kaoma Chitotela was in control of property in Makeni and in Ibex hill Lusaka. I further established that this contract was prepared by Lilian Chitotela, the overwritings were made by her where she erased the property in Makeni and inserted it with the one in Twinpalm Ibex Hill.”
And Siwakwi testified that he further received a letter dated July 12, 2016 where a company called Brut Holdings Limited issued instructions to Andrew and Partners to receive, on its behalf, US$300,000, by claiming that it had done feasibility consultancy services on the Kawambwa-Mporokoso road.
The witness said when he received that letter, he was puzzled and found it suspicious that the US$300,000 which Andrew and Partners was claiming as legal services, was also being claimed by Brut Holdings Limited.
“I further became puzzled because in this letter Brut Holdings Limited was instructing Andrew and Partners to receive the same amount and use the same to purchase two properties that is the one in Makeni and Ibex Hill,” Siwakwi said.
“My suspicions that this money was reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime where further strengthened by the fact that in this letter properties which I had already established that Chitotela was in control of, were talked about and being registered in the names of Diris Mukange who was the niece of Gregory Chibanga, the managing director of Brut Holdings.”
Meanwhile, the witness testified that the contract between the Road Development Agency and China Harbour came into effect on July 22, 2016 but added that on the other hand the letter from Brut Holdings Limited, giving instructions to Andrew and Partners to receive money from China Harbour on its behalf after doing feasibility studies on the Kawambwa Mporokoso road project, was dated July 12, 2016.
The witness said he wondered how Brut Holdings knew that RDA would award a contract to China Harbour as at the time of writing it’s letter to Andrew and Partners, there was no contract between China Harbour and RDA.
“I asked myself this golden question, ‘how then did Brut Holdings know that RDA would award a contract to China Harbour’? This question strengthened my reasonable suspicion on the US$300,000. Because at the time Brut Holdings Limited through a letter dated July 12, 2016, giving instructions to Andrew and partners to receive on its behalf US$300,000, by claiming that they had done feasibility studies on behalf of China Harbour on upgrading of the Kawambwa-Mporokoso, your honour, there was no contract between China Harbour and RDA during this time,” Siwakwi said.
“I formed an opinion that Brut Holdings was a ploy to conceal US$300,000 and that Gregory Chibanga using Brut was disguising the real owner of US$300,000.”
The witness will continue with his testimony on Friday and will be cross examined then.
Earlier on, an executive Dean at Rockview University, Fiswell Kabunda told the court that Chitotela’s wife Lilian, a former student of the learning Institution approached management saying she had property to rent out to the university.
Kabunda said he sent his juniors to assess the property which is located in Ibex hill area .
He said after the property was viewed, his agents reported that it was in good condition, adding that he told Mrs Chitotela that management was satisfied.
“On April 17, we entered into an agreement and we settled for K45,000 as the initial payment and we agreed that we would pay K39,000 for three months and that we would pay K13,000 in instalments,” Kabunda said.
“I signed the contract on behalf of Rockview and my witness was Mulelye Handela and Mrs Lilian Chitotela also signed together with her witness, Musonda Chitotela.”
“But we could not stay in the house for three months because we had differences with Mrs chitotela so we were refunded after she assessed the damages caused to the property and other things,” he said.
He said there were two bank statements for payments written Cairo Business Center and another one which was a refund from Mrs Chitotela, indicating a sum of K27,800 dated May 18, 2017.
During cross examination, the witness said he did not verify the owner of the property with the Ministry of Lands.
The matter comes up on Friday.