Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Task Force denies Nkole offered to 'cut a deal' with Chiluba

Task Force denies Nkole offered to 'cut a deal' with Chiluba
By Namakau Nalumango
Wednesday May 14, 2008 [04:00]

THE Task Force on Corruption has denied that its executive chairman Maxwell Nkole offered to drop plunder charges against former president Frederick Chiluba and his co-accused if they surrendered what they stole. In a statement yesterday, Task Force public relations officer Victor Makai said during the Radio Phoenix "Let the people talk" programme last Friday, programme moderator Frank Mutubila asked Nkole in the context of DRC governor Moses Katumbi's settlement agreement if the Task Force could cut a deal with Chiluba.

Makai stated that in his response, Nkole reminded Mutubila that the Task Force did not cut deals especially dirty ones as implied because the cases were before court and that such matters could not be withdrawn except with consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or the Attorney General.

He stated that it was unfortunate that a wrong impression had been created arising out of an interview Nkole had on Radio Phoenix with Mutubila.

"Secondly, Mr Nkole informed Mr Mutubila that he can recommend an amicable settlement of disputes currently under investigation such as the ongoing Carlington maize deal in which Dr F.T.J Chiluba together with others were suspects," Makai stated. "This could be done by entering into an agreement with him to facilitate the return of the money, which was allegedly stolen.

To this extent, the treatment which was applied to Mr Katumbi was also available to him, such that recommendation to settle would be made in the best interests of the parties in order to cut down the huge costs of litigation and was aimed at enhancing clear up of the Task Force cases which had taken so long to conclude now that the lifespan of the Task Force was coming to an end."

Makai further stated that Nkole's answer to Mutubila's question was misunderstood to imply that he intended to make a deal with Chiluba regarding his ongoing criminal prosecution. He also accused The Post of carrying an inaccurate report in last Saturday's edition where Nkole was quoted as having said the Task Force was ready to drop Chiluba's charges if he returned the money he stole.

"The executive chairman's statement was in no way intended to have any influence whatsoever on any on-going case before any court against Dr Chiluba nor to stop future prosecution on any other matter which might be brought up. The timing of the interview together with the questionnaire was something which was arranged and prepared by Radio Phoenix and not the executive chairman," Makai stated. "It is very unfortunate that a misunderstanding has been created in the minds of many due to the inaccurate report contained in the Saturday edition of The Post. The Task Force on Corruption does not believe in influencing matters before court but has a mandate to recover plundered assets through an investigation which might lead to criminal prosecution and or/civil litigation whichever is appropriate.

"With this clarification, we hope there will be no more misunderstanding as to our resolve to prosecute all forms of corruption and recover public assets as defined in the Task Force on Corruption mandate."

But Post managing editor Amos Malupenga maintained that Nkole was quoted accurately in the story that was carried arising from the discussion on Radio Phoenix.
Below is a verbatim account of part of Nkole's interview on Radio Phoenix.

Mutubila: Just a layman's question, Max. If these people you have taken to court including president Chiluba came to you and said 'look, we are surrendering these assets. We are returning some of the monies'. Would you cut a deal?

Nkole: Yes.
Mutubila: You would?

Nkole: Yes, because even the Head of State had at one time said 'why don't you bring back the money that you took and we would consider,’ you know, to drop any other charges and he said, I mean, the former president said he cannot do that. Now if you look at the mandate of the Task Force, the Task Force is mandated to recover as a separate activity, to prosecute when there's evidence. So we have got, you know, options to consider when we are looking at these cases. If, in fact, we were able to trace these assets and recovered them and empower the people, the Task Force would have achieved its mandate.

Mutubila: Right. One other question before my colleagues respond. Before I lose my thought, we've been talking about maize, mataba here, you know, the Carlington issue. Former president Chiluba is saying you interrogated him that is why he couldn't give you any evidence. A quick response to that Max? How are you proceeding with the Carlington issue?

Nkole: It is within his right and it is also in our practice, a duty on our part when you look at somebody as a suspect. He should be reminded of his rights - which is he may remain silent, not say anything. He may also opt to want to cooperate and say something in his defence. Former president Chiluba was met and he decided not to say anything either in his defence or otherwise. So when we administered the warn and caution statement, it was just to give him the legal right and opportunity for him to understand that he may be looked at as a suspect.

Now, nothing stops him from coming forward and indeed nothing stops him giving a second statement. I have said, even now, let me repeat that should president Chiluba feel free to talk to us about the Carlington, he's free to come over. After all, we are targeting at recovery. We want to recover the US $7.8 million and I have said and I’m on record saying that he knows so much as to where this money is and as a former head of state, a commander-in-chief, he should be able to assist these investigators to say well 'look, the money you are looking for is there'.

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