Friday, March 14, 2008
Friday March 14, 2008 [03:00]
Ingrid Loiten should not be surprised that Investrust Bank, as she claims, "rushed to report her to the Drug Enforcement Commission when she had discussed with the bank before they allowed her to transfer the money for the project". It is not that the bank did not know what she was doing; they knew before the money was transferred. Investrust Bank did the right thing. They acted in a professional way and in accordance with requirements of the law.
It is clear that Ingrid and her friends were for some time trying to patronise the bank and lower its guard. But this is a professional bank run by very professional people and in a very professional way. We can say this with confidence because we bank with them. There is efficiency at Investrust Bank but no short cuts.
And it's not surprising that they did what Ingrid claims they did - report her transfer of US $7 million into her account with them to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC). Any prudent banker would have done the same.
There are a number of issues that Ingrid needs to explain to the satisfaction of the DEC.
First, there are contradictions and inconsistencies in her story. On Wednesday, she told this newspaper that the project was supported by both her family members and financiers from the European Union and oil-producing countries. But yesterday, her story to this newspaper somehow changed. She now says the entire US $7 million came from one investor in Jamaica.
And there is no mention of contributions from Europe or the oil-producing countries. However, she adds that the project has attracted interest from not only Jamaica but also the United States and Israel. There is no mention now of the oil-producing countries and Europe. moreover, there is no contribution from America or Israel to this US $7 million.
On Wednesday, Ingrid described her arrest and subsequent charges as malicious and intentional by those who wanted to destroy her personality. We don't know her personality. And we don't think anyone in this country other than her friend Kaweche Kaunda really knows her personality to go for its destruction.
We don't think the management of Investrust Bank was motivated by malice to report the matter to DEC. We also don't think the DEC is moved by malice in arresting her and charging her with money laundering, failing to account for the money and falsification of documents.
We cannot comment on the merits of these charges, first because we don't know what she told the DEC for them to come up with these charges. But from what she has told us, we feel there are inconsistencies or contradictions that merit the DEC's probe of her US $7 million transfer.
One doesn't need to be very intelligent to see that there are definite questions that need definite answers from Ingrid. And if truly, as the DEC says in its charges, Ingrid has failed to account for the US $7 million and has falsified documents, then she deserves to be arrested and accordingly charged.
However, we do understand her panic and desperation. It arises from the fact that this money is not hers but belongs to someone else in Jamaica who has never been to Zambia. This overgenerous Jamaican investor, who we believe does not come from Moco - a Jamaican area associated with people who are dull or stupid, may demand his money and Ingrid will have difficulties accounting for it.
And it seems in this whole project, accountability is a strange word. The way the money was transferred to Zambia raises so many questions about accountability for this money. And money that is meant for a project is deposited in an individual's account, Ingrid's personal account. This raises serious questions about accountability. How would the Jamaican investor get his money back if say Ingrid died or somehow disappeared? Is this really the way to implement a US $7 million or US $60 million project?
As for Kaweche, there is no need to become hysterical about the US $7 million. Yes, it may be big money but it's not his money. He doesn't know where it is coming from or how it was raised where it is coming from. We appreciate his concern about the poverty and lack of development in Mfuwe. But this will only be addressed meaningfully with clean money. We need investors from other countries but let it be known where the money is coming from lest we turn our country into a centre for money laundering.
Let the matter go to court and if DEC has no case, the money will be handed back to Ingrid and if she is still interested in Mfuwe, she will then go ahead to carry on her projects. But at the moment there are questions that need to be answered to the satisfaction of the Zambian authorities.
Moreover, Jamaica is a poor country and needs a lot of investments to alleviate the poverty of its people and money should not be transferred out of that country unjustifiably. This is not to say there should be no south to south investment. What we are trying to say is that if this happens, it must be in a rational and justifiable way.
In fact in this country, we have the Zambia Development Agency where investors go to be assisted in obtaining investment licences, work permits and even advised on how to bring in their capital. Did Ingrid do this? Or Kaweche has become the Zambia Development Agency in his own right?
There is need to do things the right way. There is need for order. And whatever our desperations for investments, we should not lose sight of this. We live in a world where crime has become very complicated and if we are not careful, we may find ourselves with a lot of problems arising from questionable investors.
Here, we are not saying that Ingrid and her friends are involved in money laundering or related offences. All that we are saying is that the explanation Ingrid is giving raises further questions that need to be answered. And if what she told us is what she told the Investrust Bank and the DEC, then there is every reason to question her on these issues. And in the absence of satisfactory answers, the DEC has every reason to arrest her and charge her with money laundering and failing to account for the US $7 million she caused to be transferred into this country.