Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
FORMER Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has no valid legal reason to undermine a High Court order demanding an explanation on the wealth his family acquired during his 25 years as police chief, says Attorney-General Prince Machaya.
The unexplained-wealth order obtained by the National Prosecuting Authority against Chihuri was related to public accountability in the interest of justice, he said when responding to Chihuri’s court application challenging the order compelling him to explain his wealth, links to and interests in several companies, and how his family acquired large property holdings and other assets.
Adv Machaya also contended that Chihuri and his wife, Isobel Hakima Khan, had no valid authority to represent their co-applicants, mainly their relatives, in the civil suit recently filed in the High Court.
He dismissed Chihuri’s contention that the unexplained wealth order constituted a “gross irregularity and a fundamental breach of their legal rights” and the request for the High Court to declare certain provisions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, 2019, an infringement of the Constitution.
Adv Machaya said the order was in accordance with a valid law and did not violate any of the stated constitutional rights and freedoms and is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
He did not comment on the legal position regarding the constitutionality of the provisions which Chihuri seeks to impugn, saying his lawyer would deal with the issues.
Chihuri approached the High Court last month after all his known Zimbabwean assets were placed under management pending an explanation on his link to the companies and to the properties which the State listed for possible forfeiture.
The former police chief is being accused of paying US$32 million of public funds into family companies and acquisition of properties.
The order which the NPA obtained when seeking an explanation also encumbered Chihuri and the family’s properties, placing them under the management of the Asset Management Unit.
Chihuri, who is being represented by Kantor and Immerman law firm, argues that when the order was granted, neither he nor others listed were given any prior notice of the proceedings, nor given an opportunity to respond to the allegations that support the unexplained-wealth order.
In challenging the constitutionality of the impugned provisions of the Act at the High Court, Chihuri and his family rely on a constitutional provision that gives courts subordinate to the Constitutional Court, the power to make constitutional declarations and to pronounce as invalid, offensive pieces of legislation, although any such finding is subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court.
Chihuri argues that if for any reason, the High Court does not wish to consider the constitutional matter, then the constitutional questions he is raising should be referred to the Constitutional Court for determination, which the AG is not opposing.
The State seeks to freeze Chihuri’s companies and the properties pending the final outcome of possible criminal investigations and civil suits.
Justice Felistas Chatukuta in May granted an application by Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi for an order forcing Chihuri and his wife to explain how they acquired their properties and to interdict them from having any dealings with the companies.