14 March 2005

Zambia: Exposure of His Clothes Saddens Chiluba

Lusaka — CHILUBA is saddened by the exposure of his personal effects and is today expected to explain how his clothes, shoes and neckties were found at Access Financial Services Limited (AFSL).

And AFSL director Aaron Chungu yesterday confirmed that the personal effects and money which the law enforcement agencies seized last week from their premises belong to former president Frederick Chiluba.

Sources close to him yesterday said Chiluba was very saddened that institutions like the Task Force on corruption could use "dirty and immoral tactics to expose his personal effects without even considering that he is a former head of state and embarrass him in public".

The source said Chiluba is this morning expected to address the press to explain why his personal effects were at AFSL. The source disputed the US $1 million reported to have been paid to Busile Boutique for Chiluba's clothes.

"As far as Dr Chiluba knows, that Boutique was only paid 500,000 Francs and not US $1 million as these people are saying," the source said. "And it is not true that all those shoes, shirts and suits were bought from the same boutique."

And State House sources disclosed that Chiluba on Friday, after the first Post expose', phoned President Levy Mwanawasa and complained about the way the Task Force exposed his personal effects.

And addressing the press at Lusaka Hotel yesterday, Aaron Chungu said the directors and shareholders of AFSL wished to express their dismay at the deplorable and unprofessional conduct of the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) in collusion with the Task Force on Corruption.

The joint team of Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Task Force and Bank of Zambia last Friday discovered Chiluba's clothes and cash which were hidden at ASFL warehouse.

The joint investigation agencies found not less than 150 suits, 300 shirts and in excess of 100 custom-made shoes hidden in the warehouse.

The suits are from a Swiss tailor called Boutique Busille. Over US $1 million was paid to this shop from the Zamtrop account.

But Chungu said the directors and shareholders of AFSL were willing from the beginning to give an inventory of what they kept in the warehouse but the BoZ did not give them that opportunity. He said Chiluba took the personal effects into AFSL in January 2002 and that he was aware of the personal effects that the law enforcement agencies discovered on Friday including money.

"Dr. Chiluba gave us these personal effects to keep for him because we had more space," he said. "The trunks were brought during the day and if we wanted to hide them, we could have done so because we had that opportunity. I mean the records were there and even the keys. That in itself shows how transparent we are.

"It has been nearly two years and three months since the Bank of Zambia took over Access Financial Services Limited in suspicious circumstances which the High Court of Zambia has since declared illegal, null and void.

"Having taken possession of Access and all its subsidiaries, it was expected that Bank of Zambia would act to protect the interests of all the stakeholders of the company, including its customers and shareholders in conformity with the law and professional ethics. Instead we are witnessing alarming lawlessness and personal vengeance in the conduct of a professional institution charged with the grave responsibility of safeguarding the financial system of the country."

Chungu said the latest search at AFSL was one of the many instances which put BoZ's actions and motives into serious question in the minds of fair-minded and objective citizens. He said it was surprising that after more than two years of BoZ's occupation of AFSL premises, a new discovery in the form of hidden clothing and personal belongings of the former president was being made.

"The question to be asked is what inventory was taken by the Bank of Zambia when they took possession of the premises, and how will that inventory be accounted for?" he asked. "What is it that the Central Bank has been administering if they did not know in over two years what was just in front of their noses?"

Chungu said it was sad that the BoZ was acting in collusion with the Task Force in applying underhand methods when they were supposed to act independently and objectively by law.

"At the centre of all the fuss surrounding Access Financial Services has been the business services the company rendered to the Zambia Security Intelligence Service of the country (also known as the OP) during the previous administration," he said. "It must be pointed out that a full accounting has been rendered to the competent authorities of all the services and facilities provided to the OP which were the subject of investigation. To our knowledge, a number of the so-called recovered properties announced as having been discovered by the Task Force were part of the disclosure made by the executive directors of Access in accordance with relevant legal provisions."

He said The Post articles had alluded to a search of personal belongings of Chiluba.

"We only hope that the proper legal procedures were followed in the conduct of this search, not to mention that our country's traditional respect for elders, especially former heads of state, would surely demand that such searches are conducted diligently and within the confines of the law," he said.

He said as custodians of the interests of stakeholders, they expected the Bank of Zambia to handle matters of investigations with full professional and legal commitment.

"We are extremely surprised that the newspaper articles concerned make some link between the search of the Access warehouse and the matters in court under civil proceedings," he said. "If this is an attempt to prejudice the matters in court, then we feel very sad and would not wish to comment further on it."

He said it was utterly ridiculous to relate last week's legal repossession of Access by the executive directors of the company to the discovery of suitcases which have been under Bank of Zambia's possession for over two years.

Chungu said it was strange that even before the affected persons were informed, trial in the press was embarked upon in total disregard of the rules of natural justice and due judicial process.

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