UPND director for policy and research Dr Choolwe Beyani says the attacks by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) on the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) are inexcusable and defeats the existence of the Commission.
And Dr Beyani has called for the resignation of DEC Commissioner Alita Mbahwe for allegedly compromising her integrity.
In a statement released, Tuesday, Dr Beyani said it is worrying that Mbahwe seemed to be supporting those cited in the FIC Trends Report, which in-turn constituted admission of failure on her part.
“We find the stance taken by the DEC Commissioner Alita Mbahwe on the revelations of the FIC inexcusable as it defeats the essence, objectives and mission of the organisation she leads. Assertions by the DEC Commissioner that the publication of unverified information by the FIC jeopardises investigations and fuels speculation are unfounded and misleading. As number one fighter against money laundering and corruption in the country, Mrs Mbahwe should be telling the nation what steps the Commission has taken over 80 cases forwarded for investigation and prosecution by the FIC. It is worrying that Mrs Mbahwe seems to be supporting those reported to have stolen from the people of Zambia, which act constitutes admission of failure on her part,” Dr Beyani argued.
He stated that DEC attack on the FIC was unprofessional and undermined Mbahwe’s integrity in the fight against financial crimes.
“Commissioner Mbahwe’s reasoning that the release of the FIC Trends reports, especially the one for 2018 fuels gossip and speculation, is unprofessional and undermines her integrity in the fight against financial crimes as highlighted by FIC. As a seasoned professional, Mrs Mbahwe should have spoken the truth so that she can be of help to the political leadership of this country. It is our considered view that her statement actually fuels the perception that Zambia is now seen as a haven for fraudsters, money-launderers, corruption masters and plunderers. It is sad that at a time that a day hardly passes without matters bordering on financial crimes making headlines in the national and foreign press, the DEC boss would side with the wrongdoers,” he added.
He challenged Mbahwe to name those that fled the country after being cited in the FIC Trends Report.
“What would have been expected from the DEC boss was probably for her to ask for increased funding to the Commission to enable it deal with the 80 cases that have been forwarded to it for investigation and prosecution. Her statement that some foreigners named in the FIC Report have bolted from the country is confirmation to us that actually, what the Centre reported were genuine financial crimes. We challenge her to name those that have since fled the country and invite the International Police to trail them,” Dr Beyani stated.
“It is worrying that out of the three investigative and prosecution units of government, it is only the DEC boss who has come out dismissing the report! Her comments are tantamount to defending those accused of stealing from the Zambian people. Mrs Mbahwe is completely out of order to command the FIC to stop publicising its Trends Report in the manner it has done because FIC is empowered by an Act of Parliament. The 2018 FIC Trends Report revealed an increase in suspicious transactions involving corruption and money laundering from K4.5 billion in 2017 to K6.1 billion in 2018.”
And Dr Beyani also called for Mbahwe to resign.
“We, therefore, demand for her immediate resignation as her integrity has been compromised for siding with criminals! Going by her remarks and association with some individuals named in the Report, the nation will not be surprised to learn that Commissioner Mbahwe is one of those named in the FIC 2018 Report. As a party, we also challenge independent and professional staff at the Commission to investigate and prosecute those named in all the previous Trends Reports. A UPND government in office will follow up all the cases revealed by the FIC reports that Mrs Mbahwe has been sitting on and ensure that justice is done,” stated Dr Beyani.