Thursday, May 10, 2012

Liato concealed K2.1bn in a suspicious fashion - DPP

Liato concealed K2.1bn in a suspicious fashion - DPP
By Namatama Mundia
Wed 09 May 2012, 14:00 CAT

DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito says Austin Liato concealed the K2.1 billion in a suspicious fashion.

According to the state's final submissions, Nchito urged Lusaka principal resident magistrate Aridah Chulu to convict Liato in the face of the strong evidence against him. He submitted that the K2.1 billion could reasonably be suspected of being proceeds of crime.

This is in a case in which former labour minister Liato is charged with possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to Section 71(1) of the forfeiture of proceeds of crime Act No. 19 of 2010 of the Laws of Zambia.

It is alleged that Liato on November 24, 2011 in Lusaka, possessed and concealed money at his farm number L/Mpamba/44, Mwembeshi amounting to K2.1 billion reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime but he pleaded not guilty.

Liato is being represented by Nellie Mutti, Mutemwa Mutemwa and Moses Chitambala.

"From the evidence on record, it is clear that the accused was in possession of the K2.1 billion that is in issue in this case," he said. "It is also clear that he concealed the money in a suspicious fashion."

Nchito submitted that from the evidence on record the only inference that could be drawn was that the property in question could reasonably be suspected of being proceeds of crime.

"In terms of the international practice which is now Law in Zambia, someone who is found with the kind of money that the accused possessed cannot simply say 'It is my money' without showing how and where it was earned," he said.

He submitted that the defence's assertion that the prosecution was required to show the criminal source of the funds could not stand.

Nchito submitted that section 71(3) of the forfeiture of proceeds of crime Act No.19 of 2010 clearly states that "The offence under subsection (1) is not predicted on proof of the commission of a serious offence or foreign offence".

"It is clear that if the accused person did not discredit or dispute the
prosecution's evidence, hence his decision to elect to remain silent when he was put on his defence. In the case of the People v Kalenga and Mufumu (1968) Z.R 181 (H.C), it was held that 'The accussed's silence in the face of strong evidence against him strengthens the inference that he is guilty'," he said.

Nchito also cited another case of Simutenda v The People where it was held that there is no obligation on an accused person to give evidence, but where an accused person does not give evidence, the court would not speculate as to possible explanations for the event in question.

"The court's duty is to draw the proper inference from evidence it has before it. A court is not required to deal with every possible defence that may be open to an accused person unless there is some evidence to support the defence in question," said Nchito.

A combined team of law enforcement officers last November unearthed and seized K2.1 billion cash from Liato's farm in Lusaka West.

Police, Anti-Corruption Commission and the Drug Enforcement Commission officers undertook a two-hour joint operation to uncover and seize the money buried in two trunks at Liato's farm in Mwembeshi area.

The stacks of cash were in K50,000 notes.

Judgment has been set for May 24, 2012.

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