Zambia Reports (Lusaka)

2 July 2014

Zambia: Police Attempt to Illegally Seize Private Home of Cement Executive

Zambian police have been spotted allegedly attempting to seize control of a private residence owned by an Ndola businessman despite the absence of any authority or court order to take such action.

According to clandestine snapshots obtained by Zambia Reports, police officers can be seen approaching the property in violation of a court order, which sources say is an indication that police are acting in the service of a private businessman against the law.

The home in question belongs to Valerio Ventriglia, one of the executives ousted from the $160 million Zambezi Portland Cement (ZPC) company as part of a hotly contested corporate raid by local financier Rajan Mahtani. The police raid comes just days after the Ndola High Court ruled that the State did not have any proof linking the construction of the home to money laundering and fraud allegations brought by Mahtani against the founders of the company.

On 27 June the Ndola High Court ruled that the Zambian police must hand over the property to its rightful owner or an appointed representative. Failure to carry out the court order would result in a bench warrant issued against the Police Commissioner for failing to obey the Court's Order.

After police complied with the order and handed over the house to a representative of Valerio Ventriglia, a day later the Police Commissioner informed the representative that Rajan Mahtani "had already spoken to the Inspector General of the Zambia Police" and that on 2 July the police would illegally repossess the property once again against the order of the court.

"Mahtani appears to be taking advantage of the current Acting President Wynter Kabimba in order to use the police as pressure in a private business dispute," said the source who delivered the photos to Zambia Reports. "These kinds of abuses send a chill to foreign investors, who see that it is not safe to invest in Zambia. It's a fundamental breakdown of law and order when the police are used to help alleged criminals steal from their victims."

The ZPC legal saga has featured a number of scandalous revelations, including allegations of forged share transfer certificates and an allegedly illegal board of directors meeting to oust the company founders from control of the company. Valerio Ventriglia, along with his brother Daniele Ventriglia, were suspiciously deported from Zambia to Italy in November 2012 despite a court injunction. The police have also played an intricate role in the ZPC dispute, as they refused to serve Andrew Kamanga with an injunction preventing him from acting as managing director of the company, while a force of more than 200 armed officers in full riot gear were deployed to forcefully seize control of the company in December 2012.

Finance Bank Chairman Rajan Mahtani, whom the ZPC company founders accuse of orchestrating these alleged violations, was being investigated for money laundering by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) with the assistance of the U.S. government before the election of President Michael Sata in 2011.

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