Friday, March 28, 2008

Chiluba warned over evading maize deal questions

Chiluba warned over evading maize deal questions
By Noel Sichalwe
Friday March 28, 2008 [03:00]

TASK Force chairman Max Nkole yesterday said Chiluba evaded questions that were asked regarding the Carlington maize saga. Briefing the press after former president Frederick Chiluba appeared for questioning at the Task Force offices, Nkole said Chiluba had indicated that he wanted to explain in detail the issue concerning the Carlington maize and that it was in that spirit that the Task Force summoned him to talk to them.

"We had prepared a questionnaire which he was supposed to answer to and we made available all logistics that were required to make him comfortable while here," he said. "His interview was warn and caution.

In other words, he is deemed as a suspect. Our focus is to try to establish a conspiracy between officials including himself and the Carlington Sales executive in Canada.

As we said earlier, he was at the centre of brokering and actually approving this maize contract, so we are looking at him as a suspect together with all other people who received the money outside.

The nature of questioning which was a question and answer was such that he was supposed to provide us with answers. Unfortunately, he was evasive and he declined to answer to any of those questions.

So our next strategy will be trying to conclude these investigations and try to recover the money wherever it's lying outside Zambia and the other is to seek recommendation from the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution) for the prosecution of all those people that will be perceived to have conspired.

President Chiluba was also cautioned on a charge of abuse. In the sense apart from this contract of US$7.8 million, a fraction of that money was diverted to what was being termed as a lobby's contract after a formal contract had been signed between FRA and Carlington.

So it's another angle we are trying to consider that that money which was diverted amounts to abuse of office."Nkole said the officers also had preliminary interviews with Finance Bank proprietor Rajan Mahtani and former finance minister Edith Nawakwi and that they were looking forward to having formal interviews with them to cover all angles in the matter.

Mahtani is alleged to have introduced Carlington Sales chief executive, Ali Ben Manashe to Chiluba and had a business deal with him.He said the same Ali Ben Manashe was on the run and that he was wanted in the United States and Canada.

Nkole said this was another matter they had to issue warrants of arrest.However, Chiluba has denied any involvement in the Carlington maize saga that resulted in the loss of about US $7.8 million.

This was after Chiluba gave a warn and caution statement to Task Force officers over the maize saga.Chiluba who arrived at Task Forces offices in Woodlands area around 09:50 hours was accompanied by his wife, Regina, lawyer Robert Simeza, family members and supporters among them former science and technology minister Valentine Kayope.

The questioning lasted about two hours before Chiluba emerged out of the offices and waved at anxious journalists who were waiting for him outside wishing them a good day.Chiluba could not even give any statement to the media but delegated his spokesperson Emmanuel Mwamba to speak.

Addressing journalists, Mwamba said Chiluba was warned and cautioned over the Carlington maize deal and the sub contracts that arose from the deal that the officers were investigating.Mwamba said the officers particularly mentioned the subcontract for US $1 million, which was meant to pay for maize but was diverted.

He said Chiluba was shown a contract that was signed on October 10, 1997 between former Food Reserve Agency (FRA) executive director Chance Kabaghe and Carlington Sales chief executive, Manashe which later failed to materialise.

He said after the contract failed to materialise, there were two sub contracts one of which was signed by former finance minister Edith Nawakwi and Manashe involving about US $ 1 million. Mwamba said this contract was meant to mandate Manashe to get Canadian firms that could buy the ZCCM core mining assets.

He said the second one was a consultancy contract that was signed by former Attorney General Bonaventure Mutale and Manashe meant to build Zambia's image with donors in the United Kingdom and United States and multilateral institutions.

Mwamba said Chiluba has denied any involvement whatsoever in the Carlington deal and that if the officers would be satisfied with the evidence, they might proceed to effect an arrest.Mwamba said Chiluba elected to remain silent by invoking his constitutional right as advised by his lawyers because he was not aware of some issues that happened ten years ago.

He said Chiluba was asked about 30 questions but did not respond to any."He was actually learning some of the things in the interview room," Mwamba said. "So we will hear from them but he has cooperated and we are ready for any action that the Task Force wish to take," said Mwamba.

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