A majority of Zambians are crying foul over the devastating economic state of affairs. In the townships, citizens have come up with a saying that ‘in order to eat three meals nowadays, one has to sin’. This is an indication that things are not going well for a majority of citizens because jobs are scarce, there is no money in the economy and businesses are closing down. In the midst of this, corruption is hitting unprecedented records.
However, while survival has become a nightmare for many families under these challenges, there are a few who are praying that things remain as they are, because the more the corruption, the richer they get. They are reaping maximum profits through the facilitation of money laundering activities among top government officials.
We have observed that there is a clique of lawyers that has specialized in this business of helping criminals to conduct fraudulent activities. They receive corruption money from Chinese companies and other government contractors, which they either stash in offshore accounts or invest in real estate on behalf of the corrupt government officials.
Although the law requires them to report suspected illegal financial transactions, these learned counsels shield wrong dowers and even advise them on how to steal without leaving a trace. Within the laws under which lawyers operate, there are such provisions as “client-lawyer confidentiality”, which are being abused. This is very shameful and it must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Lawyers are supposed to be advocates of rule of law, good governance and accountability. It is heartbreaking to hear that these officers of law, sworn to uphold the Constitution of Zambia, are breaching the same laws they should be protecting. It is expected that bad elements in government will always look for individuals who have clever hands to help them launder illicit money, but a good lawyer must stand firm and resist this temptation.
Lawyers who engage in such transactions with their so-called clients are facilitators of crimes.
Some of these learned colleagues who are extremely rich are not so acclaimed at legal representation in court. You don’t see them winning court cases, but they are tycoons. They are richer than those lawyers who break their heads studying cases in order to earn decent money.
Where do these lawyers get their money from? Graduating at ZIALE and becoming a qualified lawyer doesn’t automatically pour millions into any law firm’s bank account.
We know, they say good lawyers know the law, while successful lawyers know the judge, but some of these millionaire lawyers don’t even remember where the courtrooms are. They haven’t argued any court case for decades and they provide no known legal consultancy, yet they are filthy rich from abetting crimes.
This is how they get rich. They take illicit funds meant to benefit ministers as kickbacks, and they help in cleaning it. They buy property in the name of third parties and eventually find ways of directing the proceeds to their fraudulent client.
The Anti Corruption Commission knows that facilitation of money laundering is a separate crime in Zambia. But we are surprised that they don’t seem to have a deliberate interest in pursuing perpetrators of these crimes. How do you jump to the tail end of a corruption matrix and say, “we are arresting this minister for concealing property believed to be proceeds of crime”, leaving the actual crimes written all over the scene?
In a serious country that is committed to fighting financial crimes, lawyers who facilitate money laundering activities would have been arrested and prosecuted. This is not a witch-hunt, as some people may wish to believe. Evidence of corruption in Zambia is not hard to find, it is actually hard to ignore.
We are reliably informed by those who genuinely detest corruption, and are committed to the fight, that the ACC has libraries of corruption evidence.
ACC knows the lawyers who are involved in this facilitation of financial crimes. They have bank accounts of government officials and the paper trail of financial transactions. They know who is dealing with who. But they are applying the law selectively.
Anyway, we can’t blame the Anti Corruption Commission. Like we stated in the editorial comment we published before, people who are employed in charge of these institutions are not expected to do their jobs. When they try to do so, they get fired. Or as Patrick Sikana wrote: If you act in national interest first, you are retired in national interest fast.