PROSECUTOR-GENERAL Nelson Mutsonziwa has called for the amendment of corruption laws to plug loopholes being used by “criminals” to keep hold of ill-gotten property as the state pushes for the seizure of assets controversially acquired by former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri (pictured).
The call to amend corruption laws was made in a report tabled by the PG before the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) Steering Committee meeting in Harare on Thursday.
Mutsonziwa, who is a former state attorney, said some sections of the law are hampering the NPA’s fight in corruption cases at the High Court.
He cited section 79 (2) of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act which says that orders for civil forfeiture may not be granted with respect to property acquired or used before the law came into force.
The law, which came into force in 2013, does not apply to persons who acquired property before then.
Mutsonziwa said the section of that law must be amended so that it specifically states that it shall apply with retrospective effect so that it covers cases of stolen property which happened before it came into force in 2013.
“In a recent judgment in Prosecutor-General versus Tapiwa Chidemo and others HH 416-22, the court ruled that the section precludes the forfeiture of property acquired before the Act came into force i.e 2013,” Mutsonziwa said.
“The interpretation by the court undermines efforts to fight crime and corruption as it precludes the state from seeking the forfeiture of property acquired before the Act (came) into force even if such property is tainted property.
“. . . Section 79 (2) of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (must) be amended to specifically state that it shall apply with retrospective effect. The reason being above,” said the PG.
Mutsonziwa also called for the amendment of a law that applies to unexplained wealth.
Currently, Statutory Instrument 246 of 2018 (Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and Exchange Control Act) stipulates that the minimum threshold of unexplained wealth is US$100 000.
This implies that wealth below that figure cannot be questioned even if there is a need for an explanation by the owner to clear suspicions that the assets were stolen.
The PG wants the law to be amended so that the threshold is reduced to US$20 000. He said the current US$100 000 threshold is too high and promotes corruption.
“We are of the view that this (US$100 000 threshold) promotes crime and corruption and goes against our goal of disgorging criminals of the fruits of their criminal enterprises,” said the PG.
The Supreme Court last month struck off the roll an appeal by NPA which sought an order for the forfeiture of Chihuri’s properties.
The state is seeking an explanation on how Chihuri managed to acquire his wealth and wants to forfeit some of his properties, including houses and vehicles, in a bid to recover US$32 million allegedly lost through corrupt practices.
The matter spilled into the courts after the then prosecutor-general, Kumbirai Hodzi, checked with the Deeds Office and established the rushed disposal of assets by Chihuri and his wife.
This resulted in him being granted powers to freeze the properties and assets.
The state alleges on 17 July 2018, Chihuri’s wife, Isobel Halima Khan Chihuri, sold stand 1421 Gletwyn Township, which was walled, gated with a borehole, water tank, tank stand, and wooden cabin to Brian Chijaka for US$130 000.
Her brother, Aitken Khan, had her power of attorney to make the transaction, reads the application.
On 21 March 2018, Khan sold 8 St Aubin’s Chisipite in Harare on behalf of the owner, Chihuri’s daughter Samantha to Erinah Muchingami for US$365 000.
The property, measuring 9 094 square metres has a four-bedroomed house. It was also gated and walled.
The state is also seeking answers on the sale of five properties that were part of the family’s large property portfolio despite that they had been placed under the Asset Management Unit.
Chihuri is alleged to have sold five properties between 2017 and 2018 after his departure from his plum job.
The former police boss is contesting court orders allowing the state to forfeit his properties.
He argued that he was gainfully employed, having risen through ranks in the police force and also argues he was a successful farmer.
Mutsonziwa at the Thursday meeting also revealed that between July and October 2022, the NPA had filed 10 cases of corruption at the High Court involving 12 women and 16 men while matters of extraterritorial money laundering in the same period stood at 98.
In terms of value of the cases of corruption the NPA is handling at the courts, the body revealed that it has finalised forfeiture orders totalling US$5.6 million while those that are pending are valued at US$23.7 million.