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 2010-05-27 10:09 pm Back to NEWS
Chiluba’s key finance officers go in for 5 yrs
Former finance minister Katele Kalumba, former finance permanent secretary Stella Chibanda, defunct Access Financial Services director Faustin Kabwe being led to a police van after they were jailed. Top left, Kalumba with Kabwe being driven to jail. Left, Chibanda, Kabwe (r) and Aaron Chungu (2nd from left) after they were jailed in Lusaka yesterday 26.05.2010 — The Post

Lusaka High Court Deputy Director of Operations Edward Musona yesterday sentenced MMD national secretary Katele Kalumba and three others to five years imprisonment for corruption.

Musona, sitting as a magistrate, handed Kalumba a five-year sentence with hard labour after being found guilty on one count of corrupt practices by a public officer.

He sentenced former finance permanent secretary Stella Chibanda to five years simple imprisonment on five out of the nine corruption charges while Access Financial Services Limited (AFSL) directors Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe were also jailed for five years each with hard labour.

Magistrate Musona also sentenced former Ministry of Finance chief economist Bede Mpande, former finance ministry director of budget Boniface Nonde, former secretary to the treasury Professor Benjamin Mweene to five years imprisonment with hard labour but suspended for 24 months.

This is in a case in which Kalumba, a former finance minister, Chibanda, Mpande, Nonde, Prof Mweene, Chungu and Kabwe were facing 23 charges on payments made to US security companies Wilbain Incorporated and Systems Innovation totalling US $20 million.

The offences were contrary to section 29 (1) of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Act number 42 of 1996 in respect of the former public officers and section 29 (2) of the same Act in respect of the former AFSL directors.

Kalumba faced three counts, Chibanda faced nine, Mpande faced two while Nonde was charged on three counts.

Prof Mweene faced one count, Chungu faced two while Kabwe faced three charges. The prosecution called a total of 34 witnesses.

Delivering an over five-hour judgment that drew people like chief Puta of the Bwile people of Chiengi and agriculture minister Peter Daka, magistrate Musona said he had sentenced Kalumba to five years imprisonment with hard labour because he had not shown remorse, repentance and regret over his involvement in the matters before the court.

Magistrate Musona said it was not in dispute that Kalumba and the others were public officers at the time the matters before the court were taking place. He said Chungu and Kabwe were in the case through their interaction with these public officers.

Magistrate Musona said the Zambian government entered into some contracts with foreign governments and international institutions to install security features at various government institutions. He said two of such institutions were the American organisations known as Wilbain Incorporated and Systems Innovation.

Magistrate Musona said some accused persons were among the public officers who were involved in processing the payments to Wilbain and Systems Innovation. He said there was also some level of involvement from the Office of the President (OP) and leading among the officers involved was former Zambia Security Intelligence Services (ZSIS) director general Xavier Chungu.

"Those contracts eventually acquired the acronym of security contracts," magistrate Musona said.

He said there were also other institutions like AFSL, Access Leasing and Garden Plumbers that were connected to the OP and also linked to the payments from the Zamtrop account.

Magistrate Musona said the Zamtrop account, which was holding OP funds, was automatically a public account because OP was a public institution. He said it was a proper thing to do for the public officers that followed the procedure in liquidating the government's indebtness to the two American companies.

But magistrate Musona said there were supposed to be nine payment instalments up to the conclusion of the government's obligation to Wilbain and Systems Innovation but these payments were duplicated because they did not stop at the ninth instalment.

Magistrate Musona said the ninth instalment payment was paid four times, the eleventh was paid three times, the thirteenth was paid twice and these repeated payments were more than 13 in total.

He said these payments accumulated into the overpayment of the government's debt and these could not just be a mere error in numbering because they were paid through procedure.

"These overpayments were not without purpose. These overpayments were planned," magistrate Musona said.

He said there was a deliberate action to siphon funds from the Zambian government. Magistrate Musona said after looking at letters written by Xavier Chungu, it did not make sense that contractors who were owed money by the government for projects being paid from the Zamtrop account should again be paying into the same account.

He said the security contracts to Wilbain and Systems Innovation were difficult to access and were not on the Ministry of Finance debt database because they were linked to the OP and perceived as sacred.

Magistrate Musona said Kalumba sometime in 2000 said all payment approvals should go to him because he wanted to keep a close eye on the payments following concerns on the payments on the security contracts.

But magistrate Musona said it was surprising that the payments to the two companies continued even after the government had paid the last instalment despite Kalumba's memo. He said the decision by Kalumba to approve all the payments at the time equally raised curiosity.

Magistrate Musona found Kalumba guilty on one count of receipt of 4,000 pounds as gratification and he convicted him accordingly.

In mitigation Kalumba's lawyer, Vincent Malambo, said Kalumba and his colleagues in the dock were not criminals but men to whom the country owed a debt for their contribution in addressing the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point issue.

Malambo said Kalumba was also a politician carrying the hopes and aspirations of thousands of his people in Chiengi and he was a man with health complications.

Malambo said Kalumba was a consultant of international repute.

Malambo said sending Kalumba and his friends to prison would be like imposing a death sentence on them.

In passing sentence, magistrate Musona said no one could doubt the love that Kalumba had for Zambia and he had served the people in various portfolios. He said Kalumba was a sitting parliamentarian who served the country very well up to the commencement of the investigations.

"How I wish you had shown remorse, repentance and regret by refunding the money to the state. That would have really assisted me," magistrate Musona said. "I order that you serve five years imprisonment with hard labour."

In a post-sentence interview, Kalumba said his conviction was a price one had to pay for serving the public.

"It is difficult to say but I think it's a price one has to pay when you serve the public. I hope that we continue with the struggle," Kalumba said. "I did my best for my country and I did my best for my country and I am proud of what I did, to serve Zambia reach the HIPC decision point is the evidence that has been brought against me. I have nothing to say, all I can call upon is my own courage and thank the Zambian people who have been standing by me. The battle continues."

Kalumba said he would appeal against the judgment.

In the case of Chibanda, magistrate Musona convicted her to five years simple imprisonment on grounds that her Niseo Farm in Kabwe was procured using Zamtrop funds and therefore corruptly obtained.

Magistrate Musona sentenced Mpande to five years imprisonment with hard labour but suspended for 24 months on the two charges of corrupt practice by a public officer.

Nonde was on the other hand sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour but suspended for 24 months on all the charges against him.

Prof Mweene was also slapped with a five-year suspended prison sentence for 24 months with hard labour on one count involving the erection of a cottage at his plot in Lusaka's Jesmondine area by Access Financial Services as gratification.

Magistrate Musona said the trio had shown remorse, repentance and regret by refunding the money they received in the Zamtrop transactions to the state.

Magistrate Musona sentenced Kabwe and Chungu to five years imprisonment with hard labour on various counts of corruption with public officer in a matter that has taken over six years to prosecute.

Former Task Force on Corruption prosecutor Mutembo Nchito, who was recently fired by the government, prosecuted the case.

Magistrate Musona said the convicts had a right to appeal if they were not satisfied with his judgment and the sentences were with effect from yesterday.


The Post

 
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