The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) says it is wrong for the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to publicize its Trends report to the public because it contains raw data meant for Law Enforcement Agencies only.

And the DEC says the Commission only received and is investigating 16 cases involving about K22 million.

Meanwhile, the Commission says some information disseminated by the FIC turns out to be false in some cases, leading to closure of some investigations.

Addressing a press briefing in Lusaka, Friday, DEC Commissioner General Alita Mbahwe said there was need to redesign the operations of the FIC so that they stopped compromising investigations by publishing raw data.

“While we appreciate the role of Financial Intelligence Centre is to educate the public and reporting entities of their obligations as well as inform them of measures to detect, prevent and deter money laundering and financing of terrorism proliferation, we are of the view that this report should not be published in the manner it has been in the past few years. This, therefore, means that the FIC should have different information prepared for their different audiences and not the current trend. We are concerned with the publication of raw data as it actually compromises investigations by law enforcement agencies. This is because the same intelligence information disseminated to law enforcement agencies is also disseminated to the public and therefore jeopardizes investigations as the perpetrators are alerted and begin to destroy vital evidence,” Mbahwe said.

Mbahwe said the FIC was not supposed to be involved in investigations but should only be there to feed intelligence information to law enforcement agencies.

“We have on several occasions engaged the Financial Intelligence Centre on the need to review their modus operandi to avoid compromising investigations as well as creating false impressions. It is our hope that steps will be taken in this regard because part of the assessment criteria for money laundering compliance in international standards is the effective collaboration between Law Enforcement Agencies and the Financial Intelligence Centre,” she said.

“There is need for effective collaboration and coordination if we are to fight offenses such as corruption, tax evasion, fraud, drug tracking and money laundering in Zambia. So if the current provisions in our laws are causing harm instead of causing good, there is need to review those areas of those laws because it is very clear [that] the FIC is intelligence. They should feed Law Enforcement Agencies with intelligence information. It is not for them to investigate but they are currently, somehow involved in investigation which ends up affecting the final conclusion of the reports that are forwarded to the Law Enforcement Agencies.”

And Mbahwe said the DEC was only investigating 16 of the 80 cases which the FIC said it had disseminated to law enforcement agencies.

“I wish to state that the commission received 16 cases out of the total number of the cases indicated as being disseminated to Law Enforcement Agencies accounting for 20 per cent and approximately K22 million of the total amount indicated in the FIC Trends Report. The 16 cases are currently under investigation at various stages and we will update members of the public on the action taken at an opportune time in order to avoid jeopardizing the legal prospects of the cases,” Mbahwe said.

“If anything, FIC intelligence report is supposed to be confidential. It is supposed to be undercover information. People should not even know which piece of information came from FIC and which piece of information came from which member of the public, it is confidential information at the end of the day. So we will not tell you that this report is actually coming from the FIC, we will just tell you who we have arrested [and] when we have arrested irrespective of where the offence actually was reported from. The cases that were indicated in the Financial Report on our records we do not have any one of them. So those that are put as examples in the Financial Trends Report could be cases that have been reported to other law enforcement agencies. But for the Drug Enforcement Commission, the 16 cases that we received, none of them is appearing in the Financial Intelligence Report.”

Meanwhile, Mbahwe lamented that law enforcement agencies were perceived to be inactive sometimes because some information from the FIC turned out to be false in some cases, leading to closure of some inquiries.

“In some cases, due to the nature in which information is verified, foreign nationals have fled the country upon realizing that they are under investigations following inquiries made by the Financial Intelligence Centre. Further, the intelligence report disseminated to law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Commission sometimes turn out to be false on inquiry leading to closure of cases. This is a situation which is misconstrued as inaction by investigative wings. In certain instances, the method of intelligence gathering used such as seizure of documents from various institutions affects the quality of our investigation as other supporting documents that may not have been collected are destroyed before investigative wings move in. This is some situation leads to closure of cases due to insufficient evidence or closure due to un-detection,” she lamented.

And Mbahwe said although law enforcement agencies received more detailed reports from the FIC, some information contained in the publicly circulated version was not supposed to be there.

“Of course the reports we receive are more detailed. They can’t give you certain details in the FIC Trends Report because the document will be very big and that would be too much information to give members of the public. So the cases they put in there are edited versions of whatever cases they have disseminated to law enforcement agencies. It has to be more detailed for us to understand what they are saying and where we should go with our investigations. We accept certain information that is in the report but then certain information that is disseminated to members of the public should not be in this report,” she said.

Mbahwe said the DEC was working hard to investigate all financial crimes-related cases reported to the commission.

“From January to December 2018, the commission received 308 financial intelligence reports for investigations and that includes dissemination from the FIC. Of the 308 reports, 45 were from the Auditor General’s Report while 247 were from members of the public. Despite the work-load and complex nature of money laundering investigations, the commission has been working round the clock to ensure that each report is treated on a case-by-case basis by looking at the merits of each individual case for eventual arrest and prosecution,” said Mbahwe.