A TANZANIAN national has dragged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to the Lusaka High Court seeking an order that he is the beneficial owner of ‘the famous 48 houses’ and as such he should be granted possession of the properties.
Uziel Bashire, who is currently residing in Norway, along with two other plaintiffs; Zuberi Bigawa, also a Tanzanian national and Bashire’s cousin, as well as, Charles Loyana who is currently operating at the Ministry of Finance as senior accountant, have sued ACC for seizing their property.
The three want a declaration that the Notice issued pursuant to the Anti-Corruption Commission (Disposal of Recovered Property) Regulations, 2004 directed to Loyana and certain other individuals regarding Bashire’s properties no longer has effect in light of the rightful owner claiming the properties.
Bashire, Bigawa and Loyana also want a declaration that the arbitrary seizure and continuation of holding on of the properties by ACC despite the claim made by the rightful owner is unlawful and illegal.
The plaintiffs who are in this matter represented by Willis Muhanga of Messrs AKM Legal Practitioners further want an Order for ACC to account and pay to Bashire all the income received as rentals from the date of the seizure to the date of the Order and or in the alternative mesne profits.
According to a statement of claim filed in the Lusaka High Court principal registry, the plaintiffs stated that Bashire was involved in international business among others investing in Real Estate, while Bigawa was involved in provision of general construction services.
They added that Loyana was currently operating at the Ministry of Finance as Senior Accountant and outside his employment conducts various businesses.
The trio stated that in 2011, Bashire decided to invest in real estate in Zambia.
The plaintiffs added that to achieve this, Bashire through a Power of Attorney dated November 25, 2011, appointed his cousin Bigawa and gave him power to nominate and delegate to a trusted Zambian to purchase and develop real estate properties in Zambia for which Bashire would be the beneficial owner and or subsequently as an absolute owner.
Bashire, Bigawa and Loyana stated that pursuant to the said Power of Attorney, Bigawa searched for a trusted Zambian and finally settled for Loyana who by a Special Power of Attorney dated January 5, 2012 was appointed to among others:Negotiate, sign and execute with the seller any document related to any real estate purchased by him on behalf of Bashire.
“In addition to the powers granted in the Power of Attorney, it was agreed by all the parties that Loyana would receive a commission of 5 percent for any property purchased. It was also agreed that Bashire would channel funds to be used for purchasing the properties to his cousin Bigawa, who in turn would give cash to Loyana to effect payment to any seller or provider of any services. Instructions were also given to Loyana to prioritise finding suitable land for construction of several residential housing units,” read the claim.
“Loyana will aver that he seized the opportunity to earn a commission and executed the Power of Attorney. He began searching for suitable land and he finally saw an advert in the paper that Lombe Bwalya and Associates of Lusaka had some land for sale. Together with Bigawa they contacted them, viewed the land and were happy with it.”
The plaintiffs stated that on May 23, 2012, Loyana received the first payment of K60,000 cash from Bigawa, signed for it and on May 26, 2012 he paid to Lombe Bwalya & Associates for purchase of Plots 36 H & I at K30,000 each.
They stated that on 27 and 29 May 2012, Loyana received a total sum of K120, 000 cash from Bigawa and signed for it, adding that on May 29, 2012, he made two payments of K60,000.00 each to Lombe Bwalya & Associates for Plots 36 N and O and Plots 36 D and E.
The three further stated that between July 23, 2012 and December 30, 2013, Loyana received, on different dates and in different amounts, total cash amounting to K885,000 from Bigawa to purchase a number of Plots from Lombe Bwalya & Associates.
“Bigawa will aver that he received various amounts of money from Bashire through various Tanzanian payment Systems which he withdrew and converted to the Zambian Kwacha, brought it to Zambia and gave cash to Loyana who signed for it and paid to Lombe Bwalya & Associates. Once a Plot was identified and part payment made towards it, Lombe Bwalya & Associates granted access to him and he commenced construction works on behalf of Bashire,” read the claim further.
The plaintiffs stated that construction commenced in 2012 and in or about June 2014 completion of construction of the first 12 units was completed and about August 2014 the units were occupied by various tenants.
They added that the money received from rentals in addition to some money from Bashire was used to build more units and by December 2014 another 12 units were completed bringing the total to 24 units as being complete.
The plaintiffs stated that in 2016, Bashire travelled to Zambia to check on the said project of constructing residential housing units in Lusaka, adding that he visited the site and was impressed with the development.
“Loyana through his brother-in-law a lawyer by the name of Charles Sinkala, assisted and Mr Chali Chitala of then GM Legal Practitioners of Kitwe was identified as a lawyer to help them deal with the issue of ownership of the property in favour of Bashire. Mr Chali Chitala was retained. It was further agreed that until all the legal formalities were completed, the properties would be dealt with through Mr Chali Chitala as the Lawyer who accepted the responsibility and charged K200,000 for his services,” read the claim.
The plaintiffs stated that arising from the said discussions and agreements, Chitala signed forms which resulted in the properties being held in his name and the Tenancy Agreements for the 24 units were then effected in his name.
They stated that in December 2017, six more units were completed bringing the total to 30 units.
The plaintiffs stated that income realised from the properties was equally being used to construct more units.
They added that the various properties referred to herein were not yet on title and were only bearing property descriptions as stated on various receipts issued by Lombe Bwalya & Associates.
The plaintiffs further stated that sometime in 2018, Loyana was summoned by ACC officers for an interview, wherein he was asked about his family matters and what business he was doing.
They stated that during the interviews, ACC officers never asked Loyana about the properties that were under investigations now in question.
The trio stated that after the interviews, the officers conducted a search at Loyana’s bakery, home and at his office.
The three stated that on or about August 15, 2018, ACC issued a Restriction Notice under section 60 of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act no.3 of 2012 directed to Loyana, and five others being his wife Suzan Sinkala, Mr Chali Chitala, Bruce Shikahu, Messrs Lombe Bwalya and Associates and Khankara and Company.
They stated that ACC stated that it was conducting investigations into offences alleged or suspected to have been committed under Part Ill of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act no.3 of 2012.
“It came to the knowledge of Loyana that about nine days after the Restriction Notice aforesaid, on or about August 24 2018, ACC had issued a Gazette Notice now directed to Loyana and six other persons; his wife Suzan Sinkala, Mr Chali Chitala, Bruce Shikahu, Messrs Lombe Bwalya and Associates, Ishmail Zuneid Mohamed Yousuf and Khankara and Company, wherein the defendant issued a Schedule in which they described properties whose Plot Numbers in the notices were completely different from those appearing on the receipts as issued by the seller Lombe Bwalya & Associates and in which Notice it was stated that the said properties described therein had been recovered during the course of an investigation and that they intended to be forfeited to the State if no claim was made within three months of the publication of the said notice,” read the claim.
They stated that at the time of ACC seizing the properties, a further 21 units were still under construction bringing the total seized to 51 units.
The Plaintiffs stated that sometime in 2019, they were shocked to learn through the Newspapers and social media that the Director General for ACC was interviewed and revealed that Mr Chali Chitala the lawyer retained to deal with the property on behalf of Bashire had actually disowned the properties.
“It was also discovered at this point that despite the notices referring to different properties, the defendant had actually taken over the properties for Bashire and the properties were now commonly referred to as “the famous 48 houses.” Bashire will state that upon learning that his properties were seized by ACC, he travelled to Zambia and was interviewed by the defendant’s officers and he explained how he was sending money to Bigawa, his cousin for the purchase of plots and construction of houses in Zambia.
The plaintiffs stated that despite Bashire explaining that he was the beneficial owner of the properties, ACC has continued holding on to the properties illegally and without any lawful justification.
“Bashire through his lawyers then Hobday Kabwe & Co. wrote to the defendant twice requesting for removal of the seizure notices on the properties in Chalala but the defendant has neglected, ignored and or refused to hand back the properties to Bashire and they continue to claim that they do not know of any owner,” read the claim.