ZACC guns for US$7bn assets illicitly siphoned out of the country

Source: ZACC guns for US$7bn assets illicitly siphoned out of the country | The Sunday Mail

ZACC guns for US$7bn assets illicitly siphoned out of the country

Harmony Agere

An estimated US$7 billion worth of assets were illicitly siphoned out of the country through corruption and money laundering and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is now ratcheting up measures to recover the ill-gotten gains.

ZACC has activated links with several international agencies to recover the loot, some of which is salted away in offshore bank accounts and trust funds.

Some of the externalised cash has been used to buy luxury properties and other assets.

Locally, ZACC has, this year alone, identified close to US$24 million worth of ill-gotten gains that could be up for forfeiture.

Over the past two years, ZACC has been on an unrelenting drive to seize assets that were accrued from proceeds of crime.

Assets that the anti-graft body seeks to recover include houses, residential stands, vehicles, or any other property attained from the proceeds of crime. Cash recoveries are also expected.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Mail, ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said official processes to recover the foreign-stashed loot have begun.

“The assets which were identified to have been acquired illicitly and externalised through corruption and money laundering from Zimbabwe to foreign jurisdictions are estimated at seven billion United States dollars (US$7 billion),” he said.

“Investigations through formal and informal co-operation processes have commenced for some of the identified assets.”

On the local front, ZACC and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have made headway in the recovery blitz.

“In 2021 the cases under investigation for asset recovery have cumulatively risen to 43 with value of assets identified and seized amounting to US$24,1 million,” said Comm Makamure.

“Six cases were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to recover ZWL$173m in ill-gotten wealth in 2021.

“Asset recovery is integral to the anti-corruption fight. Follow-ups are ongoing in numerous other cases worth millions of dollars as ZACC steps up asset recovery from ill-gotten wealth.”

Comm Makamure said in 2020 there were 36 asset recovery cases with a value of US$4,5 million, which were under investigation by ZACC.

Of these 36 cases, 10 case files were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority with a value of US$ 3,2 million.

“In December 2020, the High Court granted an order for the forfeiture of a property worth US$120 000 belonging to Russell Mwenye (High Court reference HACC15/20),” said Comm Makamure.

ZACC has received criticism in some quarters for the so-called “the catch and release syndrome” as critics accuse the anti-graft body of arresting suspects that are eventually released by the courts.

However, Comm Makamure said statistics disprove this assumption. He said ZACC is impressed with the conviction rate for high-profile cases, as only three prominent figures were acquitted from several that were brought before the courts in 2020.

“In 2020, we recorded a number of convictions, notably former Principal Director in the Office of the President and Cabinet (State Residence) Douglas Tapfuma, former Minister of Energy and Power Development Samuel Undenge, former Petrolline Zimbabwe Managing Director Cathrine Katsande, former ZMDC CEO David Murangari, former Acting CEO of ZINARA Moses Juma, Luke Akino and Paddington Kadzungura. Only three accused persons were acquitted.”

In an interview yesterday, Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi said the NPA’s partnership with ZACC to recover assets has brought positive results so far.

“The PG’s Office has made tremendous strides in Asset Recovery but it will be more informative if you are given a breakdown of cases and figures. It is necessary for the PG to have adequate time for this exercise.”

The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit is being decentralised to all regional courts, while all prosecutors are being equipped with asset forfeiture skills.

In its efforts to strengthen its Asset Forfeiture Unit, the NPA has also seconded some of its prosecutors to India for intensive training in cybercrime, criminology and forensics.