The 48 houses case is closed, but investigations are ongoing – ACC

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Board Chairperson judge Anderson Zikonda says investigations into the seized 48 housing units recently forfeited to the State are still ongoing despite the matter being closed.

On Tuesday this week, ACC called for a press conference to explain progress on investigations into the 48 seized houses after President Edgar Lungu ordered that the case be reopened, but the briefing was called off about an hour before time without any explanations, leaving the press in speculation.

However, in a short and unclear statement, yesterday, Zikonda, who is a retired High Court judge stated that the Commission had continued investigating the matter of the 48 houses despite having closed the case.

“Further to the media reports and the concerns raised by the members of the general public, the Commission wishes to state that the 48 flats were forfeited to the State after due process of the law pursuant to Statutory Instrument No. 58 of 2004. In as far as the forfeiture process is concerned, the matter is closed. The criminal investigations however, are active and still ongoing and that the Commission is happy to collaborate with other investigative wings in this matter,” stated judge Zikonda.

But sources within the ACC have informed News Diggers that there is an ongoing battle among the powers that be at ACC and in the government systems, which had led to calling off of the press briefing where a detailed statement was supposed to be read.

According to the withdrawn press statement which the ACC could not read on Monday, the Commission will be collecting about K2 million in rentals annually from the the said properties.

The statement further named the suspects whop were investigated and the plot numbers where the seized properties were built.

“In May 2016, ACC became aware of these 48 flats and other properties alleged or suspected to have been acquired illicitly or as proceeds of crime. A month later, the Director General authorised an investigation relating to the ownership of the same. Suffice to mention that Ministry of Lands was engaged in the course of the investigations and the Commission was notified that the properties where the 48 flats were built were not yet on title but that they sat on a parent title from which the said subdivisions were made. According to records, the said parent title was created in 2007 and the subdivisions where these flats were constructed are as follows: 1. A337 of lot no. 19897/M 2. A335 of lot no. 19897/M 3. A349 of lot no. 19897/M 4. A351 of lot no. 19897/M 5. A384 of lot no. 19897/M 6. A386 of lot no. 19897/M 7. I/19897/M/A/231 8. I/19897/M/A/233 9. I/19897/M/A/235 10. I/19897/M/A/311 2 11. I/19897/M/A/313 12. I/19897/M/A/397 13. I/19897/M/A/399 14. I/19897/M/A/446 15. I/19897/M/A/448 16. I/19897/M/A/450 17. I/19897/M/A/452 18. I/19897/M/A/32 19. I/19897/M/A/33 20. I/19897/M/A/34 21. I/19897/M/A/35 22. I/19897/M/A/36 23. I/19897/M/A/37 24. I/19897/M/A/38 25. I/19897/M/A/39,” the statement read.

“The Commission also sought the services of Zesco to establish who registered for power installations. After all this, the Commission directed the investigations against the following suspects: 1. Charles Loyana, an accountant at Ministry of Finance; 2. Susan Sinkala, wife to Loyana, who is an assistant accountant at Ministry of Works and Supply; and 3. Chali Chitala, a legal practitioner. These individuals are alleged to have either paid for some of these plots, collected rentals in some instances or applied for power installations. By August 2018, the Commission had not managed to link the dots in the investigations gathered and it was then decided that other options be used to handle the matter. The Commission opted to proceed by way of utilising the Anti-Corruption Commission (Disposal of Recovered Property) Regulations of 2004. Pursuant to the procedure, the Commission caused to be published a government gazette notice in the national print media directed at the three named above including three others who were: i) The firm that sold the subdivided plots; ii) The previous owners of the land on the parent title; and iii) The person who sometimes collected rentals. At the expiry of the notice period, the properties remained unclaimed and were hence dully forfeited to the State as by law provided.”

The Commission also disclosed that it would be collecting about K150,000 per month in rentals from the forfeited properties which translated to almost K2 million per year.

“The properties are worth almost K30 million and contributing K2 million to the government treasury. The forfeiture process of the 48 flats is closed and is not subject to re-opening. However, any person aggrieved by this development should have recourse to the courts of law. With regards the criminal aspect of the case which is expected to result in prosecuting whoever built these 48 flats from ill-gotten funds, the prosecution will be done as soon as the criminal investigations conclusively gather evidence sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the Commission stated that it was aware of a named person claiming ownership of the 48 houses but that it had not had an interaction with the person yet.

“The Commission has had occasion to read social media posts attributed to Mr Malcom Chabala. The Commission has not been aware of him until he made the post. Before the said post, the Commission had no interaction with him. The Commission therefore calls his alleged post a bluff. According to the post attributed to Mr Chabala, the following plot numbers were alluded to: 1. LUS/36971 2. LUS/37104 5 3. LUS/37373 4. LUS/37567 5. LUS/37568 6. LUS/37568 7. LUS/737570 8. LUS/37574 9. LUS/37575 10. LUS/375705 11. LUS/56561 12. LUS/76921. Anyone can see that these properties are definitely different from the ones the Commission has been investigating. This Commission has been accused of shielding a politician from prosecution, who is alleged to have built the said flats. The Commission would like to put it on record that investigations conducted so far did not establish linkage to any politician,” stated the Commission.

“It is necessary to also mention that the first tenant occupied one of the flats in 2014, meaning that the flats could have been built between 2012 and 2014. Suffice to add that according to the FIC Report of 2018, the Politically Exposed Person (PEP) is alleged to have had 49 houses constructed for him, six after influencing award of contracts. The Commission’s analysis of this suspect is that this individual could either be a controlling officer or one who has authority to influence the award of contracts. The three suspects in the 48 flats as already stated are accountants and a private legal practitioner who in the Commission’s view does not command such authority. Further the 2018 FIC report alludes to reports/investigations conducted in 2018 but the flats under discussion here were most likely built five years before the said report.”

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