FORMER tourism minister Ronald Chitotela surrendered K100,000 and an unfinished building in Ibex area in order to get a settlement agreement with the Anti-Corruption Commission, leading to the dropping of the nine charges that he was arrested for, sources within the Commission have told News Diggers.
Last week during a press conference, President Hakainde Hichilema said he had observed that one of the former ministers who had court cases was discharged in strange circumstances and when he asked the ACC, he was told that the case was closed after a settlement agreement in which the said ex-minister surrendered K100, 000 only.
“I found laws in the ACC Act and the DEC Act. The previous government used the same legal provisions to forgive one of the sitting Ministers. When I took office, I took interest in seeing it because I used to see one Minister going to court. All of a sudden, he was not in court and I said what happened? I said to ACC what happened to that case? They said there was a settlement out of court using this law. I found out it was one of the key Ministers of the previous government and I looked at the settlement and I was horrified. I said this is not correct. This guy agreed he took so much but only brought K100,000. What sort of settlement is that?” wondered President Hichilema.
Explaining to News Diggers, the source revealed that the former minister in question is Chitotela.
“If you remember, in May 2019, the Commission arrested him when he was still Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister and charged him with nine counts of corruption but the matter died a natural death. Those nine counts related to possessing and concealing property suspected to be proceeds of crime. What happened is that, the Commission under the previous administration, entered an agreement with him to settle the matter outside court. The information is that he surrendered K100,000 and a building structure, but that same record is being questioned and even tracing it has been as issue. Within the Commission, people are just pointing fingers at each other over this matter. So some of those charges are being revisited,” the source said.
“What was established was that on one of his accounts, for example, Chitotela had a credit turnover of less than K30,000 between 2015 to early 2018, but in that year alone, within just three months, he received almost K2.5 million. Part of the money came from Honourable Michael Katambo who was minister of Agriculture at the time. About K1 million came from Mr Katambo and it was indicated that Honourable Chitotela had sold maize to his colleague. But this raised questions of whether the minister had such a farm that could produce that quantity of maize worth almost US$500,000. So the suspicion was that it could have been a matter of money laundering, where buying and selling maize can be used to mask actual illicit financial transactions.”
The source explained that at the time of inquiry, Chitotela owned 13 vehicles, 11 of which were bought after 2014 when he was minister, yet there was no paper trail to show that the motor vehicles were bought from the minister’s known income.
Further, the source narrated that Chitotela was linked to a company that only existed on paper named Veil Construction registered in 2017 and a car hire company called RKC Tours and Guide which facilitated some suspicious financial transactions.
“Some payments were done from his Ministry, but there was no contract supporting these transactions where RKC was hiring out vehicles to the government. RKC also claimed that they also hired out vehicles to the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Environmental Council of Zambia,” narrated the source.
The source explained that Chitotela’s financial transactions were also linked to some Chinese companies, including China Harbour and Avic International, which were connected to Veil Construction.
Chitotela was however acquitted on two similar charges by Magistrate David Simusamba.