FORMER Attorney General Musa Mwenye says keeping colossal sums of money in homes is not only a threat to the country’s financial stability but also a security threat.
And Mwenye has urged law enforcement agencies conduct do their investigations in private and only announce when they are ready to effect an arrest, warning that announcing earlier can lead to suspects covering their tracks.
Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV, Sunday, Mwenye said it would interesting to know why so much money was being kept at Faith Musonda’s house.
“I think I will be interested to know why so much money was being kept at a house. That is a lot of money and I think in my calculation, that is between US$5 and US$6 million. In any case, you will remember from the [Austin] Liato judgment, when the scale of money is so much and the way it is kept seems to suggest concealment, there is rise to reasonable suspicion about proceeds of crime. The law enforcement agencies did the right thing to move in and give whoever owns that money [an opportunity] to give an explanation to how that money came into their position. So much money in liquidity in homes is not only a threat to the financial stability of the nation but also a security threat. It is something at security level that must be taken very seriously because [it] has the capability to destabilise the nation,” Mwenye said.
“The law is that you must not hoard money that is reasonably suspected of having to be proceeds of crime. So if you conduct legitimate business you must give an explanation, but why would you keep so much money in your house? The banking system in Zambia works very well. I cannot conceive a situation where you can [keep] K65 million in your house and I have never seen K1 million in cash myself. So for me, I do not see conceivable reasons in a country like ours which has well function banking system, why would you be paid in cash such kind of money? Why not use the banking system? So the law enforcement agencies were right in being reasonably suspicious of the source of that money. If it is clear that it is being concealed and the quantum of the money raises a suspicion that those are proceeds of crime, the burden now shifts to the owner to explain where that money came from.”
Mwenye said law enforcement agencies should learn from that and endeavour not to allow corrupt practices and illegal acts to escalate to the way they did under the PF.
“It is sad that the investigative wings were sleeping. The lesson for all our investigative and security wings is never again to be able to let things like this slide to the level they let them slide. They have a legal mandate and they turned a blind eye to clear corrupt practices and illegal acts. This applies even to this administration and I am glad that President Hakainde Hichilema has made it clear that this government has zero-tolerance to past, present and future acts of corruption. The law enforcement agencies should not practice self-censorship. Law enforcement agencies should never again allow a situation where they let the levels of corruption we saw in the last administration to arise in this country. They need to fight corruption even for people who are in government,” he said.
“There are people who die of hunger in this country and there are families who do not eat three meals a day. And then you have people hoarding K65 million in a house. We need to encourage our law enforcement agencies even in the UPND administration to continue doing the right thing. What they did with the PF administration was absolutely unacceptable. The level of attack on the FIC which was one of the few agencies that was actually working was so huge that they were facing an existential threat. So that is unacceptable and we need to see action. For the first time in seven years, we have seen tangible political will to fight corruption and law enforcement agencies must hold on to that and do the right thing.”
He, therefore, urged the UPND and other administrations to learn that Zambians detested corruption.
“You had Ministers going to court while being paid, what message was being sent? It was a tacit message to the law enforcement agencies to say ‘these people have my support, do not injure them’. You do not inspire confidence in fighting corruption in that manner. That is why I am proud of the Zambian people, this nation is resilient and we hate corruption and politicians seem not to understand this. Zambians hate grand corruption and sometimes they look like they are fools and we kept quiet but we know how to punish corrupt politicians,” Mwenye said.
“It is a lesson that every administration must learn that at the end of the day if there is something that Zambians hate the most, it is people stealing their money while they are hungry. There was misplacement of priorities and a lot of it was actuated by the need to get a benefit from those contracts. We should never get to that state of lawlessness. We got to a place of lawlessness that is unprecedented in the history of this country. Even under the UNIP one-party state, we had orderliness and if there were laws, they were obeyed but we did not have that in the recent past government and impunity became the order of the day.”
Meanwhile, Mwenye advised law enforcement agencies to conduct their investigations in private.
“When you go ahead and communicate without fully investigating, you will tip off the people who you are investigating and they can start covering their tracks, destroying everything and doing all sorts of things. That is why it is best practice in such complex cases for you not to announce until you are ready to effect an arrest. Normally you will find the law enforcement officials advising you the press that ‘we have taken a warn and caution statement’, it is at that point that they announce and they will reveal the name. You do not say ‘we are investigating a certain person and so on’. Do your investigations in private and when you have not gotten to a place where you have credible information and you have established evidence, summon the individual and get a warn and caution statement and take them to court,” said Mwenye.
“Playing to the gallery should never be the case. Serious investigative agencies should not play to the gallery that is serious business. They should do their job and do it properly and make sure that they safeguard our interests as the Zambian people without fun fair. It is a job that requires a lot of soberness and should [not] be done just essentially to have people clap and so on. They should just do a proper job and we will support them in doing a proper job. They now have the political will and they need to work well but not play to the gallery and want to please politicians. They should do the right thing.”