DRUG Enforcement Commission (DEC) Director General Mary Chirwa says the commission might not have the ability to achieve all its goals due to budget constraints.

And Director of Public Prosecutions Lillian Siyunyi says the COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously increased people’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Mulambo Haimbe says law enforcers need to acquaint themselves with the advancement in technology in order to be able to fight cyber-related crimes.

Speaking during the signing ceremony between the Drug Enforcement Commission and the AGA- Africa, Tuesday, Chirwa expressed confidence that the MOU would help address the existing challenges posed by money laundering and financial crimes.

She said the fight against money laundering activities and financial crimes needed concerted efforts in order to achieve meaningful results.

“As the Drug Enforcement Commission due to budget constraints, we may not have the ability to achieve all our goals. Therefore we need such partners like AGA-Africa. Hence, the signing of this MOU is timely. Where funding is available we hope AGA-Africa can continue to provide capacity building and technical support to DEC. We are all aware of the harsh negative impacts of money laundering and financial crimes in our economies. The fight against money laundering activities and financial crimes, therefore, needs concerted efforts such as the collaboration we are witnessing today if we are to achieve meaningful results,” said Chirwa.

“The Drug Enforcement Commission and AGA-Africa have enjoyed a long footing friendship with each other. Over the past years, many programmes of cooperation have been established in the field of financial and cyber-crimes. This cooperation will therefore go a long way in addressing the existing challenges posed by money laundering, financial crimes and other related offences in Zambia. I am confident that the signing of this MOU which marks a significant milestone in our ongoing collaboration will enhance the development of effective mechanisms for cooperation, coordination and implementation of policies and activities in combating money laundering and financial crimes.”

And speaking during the official opening of a three-day training for law enforcers in Cyber Laws, Treaties Security and Investigations, Siyunyi said COVID-19 had increased people’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

“Cybercrimes are constantly evolving to meet the changes in human behaviours and trends. In the last two years, the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic was an extraordinary and paralleled event which transformed the lives of billions of citizens globally resulting in what commonly came to be known as the new normal. More segments of the population have been and still are confined more to their homes and spending more time online accessing services that they would typically obtain offline. This has tremendously increased our vulnerability to cyber-attacks and also transformed ways in which criminals commit crime,” she said.

Siyunyi said the training would enhance cooperation among the stakeholders and also improve cyber security in participating agencies, among others.

“The overall objective of the training is for you the participants to get an overview of the cyber-crime laws and treaties, cyber security threats, digital forensic and evidence gathering. It is expected that the following will be achieved from this training; one, enhanced cooperation among the stakeholders; two, improved cyber security in participating agencies. Three, improved performance in the investigation and prosecution of cyber crimes. Four, enhanced knowledge on what is working well and what is not working well in the established jurisdiction and five, improved investigation and prosecution of cyber aided offences,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a speech read on his behalf by Solicitor General Marshal Muchende, Minister of Justice Mulambo Haimbe challenged law enforcers to acquaint themselves with the advancement in technology in order to fight cyber-related crimes.

“This scientific innovation is a good thing but it has also brought about a downside to it. Some elements in our society have jumped on the bandwagon to abuse what is supposed to be an instrument of development, an instrument of entertainment, an instrument of education. An instrument of communication has been turned to the advantage of nefarious elements in our society. Those of us whose duty it is to protect society must learn how to adapt to the digital age to protect those that we are bestowed upon to protect. We cannot continue conducting our work as investigation agencies, prosecutorial agencies in the same way of doing things when we are living in a digital age. We cannot be doing things as though we are still living in the Stone Age era. Things have changed and we need to adapt,” Haimbe said.

He said government was working and inviting ideas on how it can improve the cyber-crimes act.

“As you know, we have the cyber-crimes act No 2 of 2017 and as you know this law was actually subject of litigation in the case of Chapter One Foundation versus the Attorney General where the stakeholders were saying that the act seems to infringe upon the rights of people as opposed to protecting the people that it serves. And it is in partnership with the Attorney General’s Alliance that we hope to exchange ideas and notes of how we can actually improve our laws, how we can improve our prosecution in cyber-crime, how we can improve on investigations in cyber-crimes,” Haimbe said.

“So we have actually invited Attorney General’s Alliance to our office to have a meeting with the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, myself and our crew from the ministry of Justice for them to share ideas with us on how we can tweak the cyber-crimes act and generally improve upon the cyber laws in Zambia. These laws serve to protect the people of Zambia as opposed to infringing upon their rights. We do not want cyber laws which are politically motivated. We want cyber-crime laws that are meant to protect the interest of our people, striking a balance between their security and their enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression, freedom of communication.”

At the same event, Attorney General’s Alliance Africa International Advisor John Edozie said cyber-crime was a threat to national security.

“Cyber-crime is a conversation we cannot ignore in this technological era if we are to stay ahead of the criminals globally. The losses and damages attributed to cyber-crime amount to trillions of dollars. In Africa, as the digital economy continues to develop new challenges have emerged. Cyber threat actors have developed unsophisticated tools and methods designed to avoid detection or maximize income. Cyber-crime is in fact a threat to national security and traditional methods of investigating and prosecuting these crimes cannot keep up,” said Edozie.