We have always considered the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) Director-General Alita Mbahwe as a seasoned criminal investigations professional who cannot be easily swayed by political bickering from either the ruling party or the opposition. We have always felt that she is capable of distinguishing propaganda from facts, but our perception was wrong, apparently.
When President Edgar Lungu dressed down the Financial Intelligence Centre at the airport last week, he set in motion a very vigorous agenda to discredit the institution’s work. We thought it was easy for well-meaning citizens to tell that the Head of State was just playing politics, because even in his ranting, he couldn’t remember what the abbreviations for Financial Intelligence Centre are. He was going on about “FCI” and “FCU” – God knows what was happening in his head.
It was not surprising to see many of those who eat with their government allies, including senior private lawyers, business houses and some “tidye nao” NGOs jumped on board to echo the President’s attack on the Financial Intelligence Centre. But what shocked us was to see professionals like the DEC boss, calling a press conference to scandalize the Financial Intelligence Centre.
“The FIC should have different information prepared for their different audiences and not the current trend. We are concerned with the publication of raw data as it actually compromises investigations by law enforcement agencies. This is because THE SAME INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION DISSEMINATED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IS ALSO DISSEMINATED TO THE PUBLIC and, therefore, jeopardizes investigations as the perpetrators are alerted and begin to destroy vital evidence,” Mbahwe claimed.
But immediately she said that, the DEC boss went ahead to completely contradict herself by exposing the lies, which were coming out of her mouth. After claiming that the FIC gives her the same intelligence information, which is given to the public, she U-turned and countered her lies.
“Of course, the reports we receive are more detailed. They can’t give you certain details in the FIC Trends Report because the document will be very big and that would be too much information to give members of the public. SO, THE CASES THEY PUT IN THE FIC TRENDS REPORT ARE EDITED VERSIONS OF WHATEVER CASES THEY HAVE DISSEMINATED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES. Those cases that are put as examples in the Financial Trends Report could be cases that have been reported to other law enforcement agencies. But for the Drug Enforcement Commission, the 16 cases that we received, none of them is appearing in the Financial Intelligence Report.”
So, how can the perpetrators be alerted and begin to destroy vital evidence if the FIC public report did not expose anything that DEC is investigating? We don’t understand what kind of person does and says the things that madam Mbahwe was saying. Is that normal? Why would a professional head of a very sensitive investigative wing attack another government institution in that manner? What motivated madam Mbahwe to lie in a bid to discredit the FIC work, but then contradict her own words?
And this woman had the audacity of suggesting that the law governing the FIC operations should be reviewed. Ha! Imwe ba Alita Mbahwe! What has happened to you? Where is this beef coming from? Is this how far you can go with the muzungu anikonde or you have scores to settle with madam Mary Chirwa, the FIC boss? We can’t figure out what you are trying to achieve and we believe that members of the public are just as shocked.
The FIC board and management doesn’t report to you, madam Mbahwe, you have no right to call for the repeal or review of their Act. You are not the Attorney General of this country to offer your legal opinion on the laws that govern other State institutions. If there is need to abolish the FIC Act or amend it, it will not be your responsibility to implement that.
We feel very disappointed with you, madam Mbahwe, because even if you were to be given instructions by your appointing authority to attack the FIC, the best you could have done was to call your sister, Mary Chirwa, to your press conference so that she can respond to your concerns. What you said at your press conference is very unfair and unprofessional.
And if we may ask just one question: the Auditor General reveals even more details in their annual reports, detailing cases, which are disseminated to law enforcement. How come we have never heard you or anyone at DEC complain about the release of the Auditor General’s Report? Why are you not calling for the review of the law governing the Auditor General’s operations? With all due respect, shame on you, madam Mbahwe!
We feel sad that madam Mbahwe has jumped into the ring when the fight doesn’t involve her. She is eager to train someone who is already winning the fight, while losing her own bout. We don’t see anything that DEC can teach the FIC. Which high-profile money laundering cases has the DEC unearthed involving Politically Exposed Persons in the past 5 years? Nothing! If they received the detailed report of financial crimes from the FIC in 2018, what have they been doing with the information all along for them to claim now that the suspects will destroy evidence?
What we are hearing from DEC sounds like jealousy because the FIC has proved to the public that they don’t work like that, they don’t wait for a call from State House before they can compile someone’s suspicious financial transactions. Most importantly, they don’t care who is involved. Let’s be honest, the DEC’s Anti-Money Laundering Unit had been struggling before the FIC came into being. That is why the DEC reputation is strong in drug trafficking-related cases because it’s very rare that PEPs get exposed in such. They are afraid to touch the people named by the FIC in the classified report.
It is for this reason that we feel what you did last week, madam Mbahwe, is very regrettable. We urge you to desist from unnecessarily putting your name in bad light. Politics is for politicians and not for professionals like you. President Edgar Lungu has the latitude to say whatever he wants about the FIC, but you have limits. We know you are trying to stick to the side of your bread, which is buttered, but do so quietly. Don’t be jealous of those who are happy to eat tute and kandolo.