African News

Ex-President Chiluba of Zambia in Boiling Water

19 May 2007 at 10:17 | 768 views

By Patrick Hassan-Morlai,London.

The man, who ruled the landlocked southern African Republic of Zambia from November 2, 1991 to January 2, 2002, Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba, has this month been found guilt by a court in London of fraud and misappropriating some US$46 million belonging to the state and people of Zambia. The money was siphoned during the tenure of Mr. Chiluba(photo) as president under a number of fraudulent schemes, disguised as secret operations of the Zambia security services overseas.

Having considered all the evidence before him, His Honour Justice Peter Smith of the High Court in London concluded that the erstwhile president shamelessly defrauded his people and satisfied his greed with an expensive wardrobe of "stupendous proportions".

This is not only a victory for incumbent president Levy Mwanawasa, who made the fight against corruption a top priority of his administration, but also a landmark ruling that could be a warning shot for all African leaders.

When President Mwanawasa took office in 2002, the poverty index in Zambia showed that about 73% of Zambians could not afford to spend more than $1 per day on meals and the Zambia Bank Governor put it this way: “most Zambians cannot afford ......3 meals a day”.

When president Chiluba was plundering Zambian state funds, he was never challenged by any one in his administration, probably because of his then enormous presidental power. The office that had authority to inquire into such a transaction was that of the Zambian Auditor General. However this office did not intervene and no reason was provided for the Auditor General’s inaction. Chiluba ruled Zambia from 1991 to 2002.

Also, Chiluba used the Zambian Finance Charter 1970 to hide what had been going on and to inhibit legitimate queries. Accordingly, some government employees were intimidated and prevented from disclosing to the public those “secret operations” claimed to be part of government security activities.

Chiluba, his permanent secretary and head of ZSIS - Zambian Security Intelligence Services (Mr. Xavier Franklin Chungu), his ambassador to the USA between 2000 and 2002 (Mr. Shansonga), his head of the Department of Loans and Investment in the Ministry of Finance (Ms Stella Chibanda), two solicitors in London and more than ten other defendants concocted highly sophisticated plans to plunder the Zambian treasury.

Chiluba ordered his Ministry of Finance between 1995 and 2001 to transfer monies to a London based bank account allegedly for the payment of Zambia’s official debts and to purchase helicopters, fighter aircrafts, arms and other equipment. Most of the transactions never occurred.

The Zamtrop Account where the monies were deposited was outside ordinary Zambian government processes. This was a US Dollar account with number 58C/40/70185/01 held at the London branch of the Zambian National Commercial Bank by the Zambian Government in the name of ZSIS. However, only Chiluba and another person had access to and operated the Zamtrop Account. The question being asked in Zambia is why official Zambian debts and arms deals payments should be transacted through an account that is outside the ordinary governmental processes.

Ms Janet Legrand, a partner at solicitors’ firm, DLA Piper, which represented the Attorney General of Zambia in this matter, is quoted in the Law Society Gazette April 17, 2007 edition that “[t]his case sets a legal precedent which should ensure that corrupt leaders are held accountable for their actions. It is a flagship case, not just for the Republic of Zambia, but also for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa...and should be] a blueprint for cracking down on corruption.”

Ex-president Chiluba and co-defendants had argued that the English court had no jurisdiction over the matter which was commenced by issuing of a claim form on 6th October 2004. But Justice Peter Smith dismissed their contention, noting that substantial part of the stolen monies made its way in London; some of the main defendants are based in London and if the claimant (Zambia) were successful, they would be able to easily enforce an English judgment in England than a Zambian judgment.

Sources in London told the Vanguard that African governments that are committed to stamping out corruption could learn something from this case, pointing out that because of the fact that money stolen from Africa is sent to foreign accounts, African governments should be willing and able to trace and recover the loot in those foreign jurisdictions.

Anti-corruption or anti-money laundry commissions in African countries,the sources opined, should be given the necessary legal authority to pursue those suspected of having plundered government coffers.