Transparency International Zambia executive director Wesley Chibamba says instead of asking questions like who has the FIC reported the cases to, President Edgar Lungu should be asking about who built 49 houses out of corruption.
In a statement, Thursday, Chibamba said it was worrying for President Lungu to state that the law governing operations of the FIC must be revisited to restrict it from spreading “gossip” when it was essential for all citizens to know how their money was being spent.
He stated that it was strange for President Lungu to wonder whether the FIC had reported the cases to law enforcement agencies when the centre had announced that 80 cases had been surrendered for investigation.
“Transparency International Zambia is worried with the statement that was issued by the Republican President Mr Edgar Chagwa on the Financial Intelligence Centre trends report, particularly because presidential pronouncements are often regarded as policy direction.
According to section 5 (2)(e) of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act number 4 of 2016, it mandates the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to inform the public on the money laundering and terrorists financing trends. The same section 5 provides for the FIC to disseminate suspicious transactions to competent authorities for investigations and prosecutions. The FIC does strategic analysis and refers these cases to the appropriate agencies with detailed information containing names of individuals involved, their bank accounts and all the particulars of the transactions. This information is shared with relevant Law Enforcement Agencies, for instance if there is an issue of Tax evasion, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) is involved, if there’s an issue of fraud and money laundering the FIC reports to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), if there is an issue of corruption the FIC reports to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and if there is an issue of theft, they report to the Zambia Police Service,” Chibamba stated.
“This is as is mandated by the law and so we are very surprised with the words uttered by the Head of State who is the Chief Executive of this country asking such questions as, “Which agencies have they referred these cases to?” The President sounds very defensive of the wrong doors instead of supporting the FIC and urging the law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.
In the report it is reported that 80 of these suspicious transactions reports were disseminated to appropriate authorities. And these 80 were out of the 176 reported cases. Therefore, the FIC are doing the job that they were mandated to do. We are surprised that the President is saying that they did not report these cases to the appropriate authorities.”
And Chibamba stated that President Lungu should instead move to suspend suspects pending investigations instead of trivializing the work of the FIC.
“He was encouraging the Zambians to be reading and all these things are contained in the law and the report issued by the FIC. What the President should be asking is, “if there is a minister or indeed a politically exposed person who has 49 houses, who is this person?” The president is actually supposed to know whom these case studies are referring to, he receives intelligence reports, so we expect him to be aware of these cases and encourage the law enforcement agencies to do their job instead of sounding very defensive of the people suspected to have committed financial crimes. The right thing to do would be to suspend the culprits to pave way for investigations, rather than sounding to be defending the criminals,” he stated.
“We feel the president’s statement does not encourage the fight against corruption, it dampens the morale of Law Enforcement Agencies to do their due diligence.”
Chibamba stated that if the FIC law needs revisiting, it should be to strengthen the centre’s mandate.
“What we would also like to know what he meant by the law has to be revisited. We hope what he meant was the law to be revisited in order to strengthen the work of the FIC and not to weaken the FIC. We would like to urge the president to live by his words that he is committed to the fight against corruption. He is supposed to be concerned about the fact that 4.9 billion out the 6.1 billion was lost due to corruption. What the FIC is doing is to point us to the wrong doings and therefore we need to make informed decisions on appropriate action on how we are going to address these issues and not attacking the FIC on how competent they are or how well they are doing their jobs,” stated Chibamba.