TRANSPARENCY International Zambia has argued that offering amnesty from prosecution is not in conflict with the zero tolerance for corruption policy because it provides an opportunity to deprive criminals of ill-gotten wealth.
And TI-Z has maintained that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) acted within the Law and in good faith by offering Faith Musonda amnesty from prosecution following her willingness to refund the money and property.
Meanwhile, Nyambe says there is need to develop mechanisms aimed at verifying the accuracy of the declarations made by those seeking amnesty.
In response to a News Diggers! editorial comment, Thursday, TI-Z executive director Maurice Nyambe stated that asset recovery mechanisms were globally accepted as an approach to fighting corruption.
He stated that an amnesty also helped in generating evidence for other investigations.
“We would like to clarify that we do not believe that offering amnesty from prosecution is in conflict with a “Zero tolerance for corruption” stance since it provides an opportunity to deprive criminals of ill-gotten wealth and potentially generates evidence for other investigations. Furthermore, and perhaps more crucially, asset recovery mechanisms are globally accepted as an approach to fighting corruption and can be effective in that regard if well implemented. Considering the conditions under which the amnesty is extended, such cases potentially provide evidence for subsequent investigations, as well as insight into criminal activities of close associates of the individual to which the amnesty is extended. We would also like to highlight the give and take nature of such arrangements,” Nyambe stated.
“The amnesty is offered by law enforcement agencies on the basis of the analysis they would have made about the prosecutorial strength of a particular case, and the value of information that a suspect may have provided in return for that amnesty. For these reasons, we do not believe that going the amnesty route to recover assets goes against the principle of zero tolerance for corruption.”
And Nyambe maintained that ACC acted within the Law and in good faith in offering Musonda amnesty from prosecution.
“In the Wednesday 27th October issue of the News Diggers, the editorial comment raised questions on Transparency International Zambia’s apparent support for the amnesty extended to Faith Musonda under the headline “Money Heist and the Sleepy Law Enforcement.” TI-Z wishes to acknowledge the importance of the debate that has ensued concerning this case. Issues of governance should elicit interest from the public, and the diversity of views that continue to be expressed over the Faith Musonda issue, is healthy for a democratic dispensation such as ours. We believe that is the spirit in which the News Diggers editorial was written, and our response is therefore premised on that same spirit of contributing to what has become a raging debate,” he stated.
“We have noted the public displeasure in the manner in which the case against Faith Musonda has been handled, and while appreciating the veracity of that displeasure, we would like to reaffirm our position that we believe the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) acted not just within the law, but also in good faith (pun unintended) and for the greater public good.”
Nyambe, however, argued that an amnesty should be time-bound so that those who plundered public resources and fail to declare themselves within a specified period of time should be investigated and prosecuted.
“We should stress that from our point of view, the Faith Musonda and Anti-Corruption Commission settlement agreement is not a “deal” to allow criminals to go scot-free. It is aimed at saving the public from a lengthy, expensive and uncertain trial. In Zambia’s current predicament, where high profile corruption cases have collapsed in court with no benefit to the public, offering amnesty is part of a broader strategy to fighting corruption. Nonetheless, the caveat here is that this strategy should not be the first port of call when it comes to dealing with corruption. It must also be time-bound so that those who have plundered public resources and fail to declare themselves (and the correct amounts they plundered) within a specified period of time should be investigated and prosecuted. The amnesty should not be in perpetuity, and each case should in fact be looked at on the basis of its own merits,” he stated.
“Our belief is that the assets and resources recovered will potentially benefit the public through reallocation to public services following the forfeiture. We therefore believe that in the absence of certainty about how a particular case will go, and on the premise that law enforcement agencies are able to obtain crucial information about any wider criminal activity, the rationale for asset recovery without prosecution remains relevant.”
Meanwhile, Nyambe said there was need to develop mechanisms aimed at verifying the accuracy of the declarations made by those seeking amnesty.
“As already stated, we believe that while provided for by law, the amnesty arrangement should not become the norm as an approach for dealing with individuals suspected to have plundered national resources. There is need to set a clear deadline for the amnesty and to develop mechanisms aimed at verifying the accuracy of the declarations made by those seeking amnesty. If a timeframe is not specified and suspects are able to under-declare the assets gained from corrupt activities, justice will not have been served and more people may be induced to indulge in corruption. Criminal prosecution should be pursued once the amnesty period elapses for those who opt to remain silent. Furthermore, the settlement agreements should provide for criminal prosecutions in the event that it is discovered that an individual abused the amnesty by providing false information,” said Nyambe.
“In concluding, we would like to call upon the UPND government to urgently clarify their broader strategy of asset recovery in order to address the pertinent concerns being raised by the public and other stakeholders. There is need to set a clear deadline for the amnesty extended to individuals who plundered public resources and all the information gathered during the amnesty period should be used to build credible cases against those who decide to remain hidden. Furthermore, government should update the nation on how the recovered assets will be utilized. TI-Z also calls upon the media to follow up on these concerns in order to provide accurate and credible information that will contribute to a wider and more fruitful discourse about the fight against corruption in Zambia.”