21 January 2012

Zambia: Govt Freezes Zamtel Accounts

Photo: iMaverick
Zambian President, Michael Sata reverse the Zamtel deal which was made by Former-President Rupiah Banda`s government. (File Photo)

LAP Green Networks, majority owners of Zamtel, have disclosed that Zambian authorities have frozen all their bank accounts as part of investigations into the alleged irregular sale of the Zambian telecommunications company.

In an e-mail response to a Reuters query yesterday, Lap Green denied any wrongdoing saying: "The authorities have no reasonable grounds whatsoever to believe that the moneys in the seized accounts and any other Zamtel accounts are from the proceeds of criminal activity."

The response further states that the authorities had seized bank accounts belonging to Zamtel in connection with allegations of money laundering, "which are utterly false".

LAP Green maintained that Zamtel's accounts only contained monies that directly related to its activities as a communications service provider in Zambia.

The statement said Zamtel was engaging relevant authorities in an effort to have its accounts unblocked.

"We are also currently working on avenues for the amicable resolution of matters. We have also taken measures to ensure services to Zamtel's clients are not affected," the statement further reads.

The response also states that aside from anything else, the Zambian Government remained a shareholder in Zamtel and had representation on the board of directors who had access to and knowledge of the company's accounts.

LAP Green said Zamtel's accounts were audited every quarter and the Government was aware and knew the result of the audit reports, which made it clear that there was and had been no wrongdoing.

Highly placed sources in Lusaka yesterday also confirmed that the Zamtel accounts had been frozen.

And National Union of Communications and Allied Workers of Zambia (NUCAW) president Patrick Kaonga, said it was common knowledge that the Zamtel accounts were frozen because the company's staff could not deposit any revenue into the accounts.

And the sources in Lusaka told the TIMES that authorities froze Zamtel accounts pending money laundering investigations as a result of the transaction between the former MMD Government and LAP Green of Libya.

"Yes, in terms of being aware about the Zamtel accounts, it is common knowledge because when staff go to deposit money at banks, they are told that they can't make any transactions," he said.

Mr Kaonga, however, said Zamtel management had not issued any official correspondence regarding the freezing of the company's accounts by the Government.

Asked for how long Zamtel staff had not been able to make deposit, he said, they learnt about it on Thursday when employees who went to make deposits were told they could not do so.

In a separate interview, Information, Broadcasting and Tourism Minister Fackson Shamenda said security wings had the right to freeze any bank account in the country.

Mr Shamenda, who is Chief Government spokesperson, said the investigative wings could freeze any bank accounts if it was discovered that there were suspected irregularities.

"Government does not go round freezing bank accounts but if law enforcement officers have suspected an anomally, they have a right to freeze any account," he said.

He said operations of Zamtel and welfare of employees would not be affected and the Government had done transparently everything pertaining to the sale of Zamtel in the best interest of the nation.

Mr Shamenda urged Zambians to desist from speculation but verify alreports regarding the Zamtel sale following the release of the report

by the commission of inquiry.

"In as far as there is freedom to access and disseminate information strongly feel that people should verify this information with their sources first," Mr Shamenda said.

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