FORMER first lady Esther Lungu is on the verge of losing her 15 double storey flats to the State on suspicion that they are proceeds of crime.
The State has since instituted proceedings before the Economic and Financial Crimes Court to have tainted properties belonging to family members of former president Edgar Lungu, forfeited to the State.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Gilbert Phiri has filed four originating notices of motion for an application of a non conviction-based forfeiture order of tainted property pursuant to Order 30 Rules 15 and 17 of the High Court Rules, read together with Sections 29 and 31 of the forfeiture of proceeds of crime Act no. 19 of 2010.
This implies that Esther will give up on their properties, without being subjected to trial.
According to an affidavit sworn on behalf of Phiri by Emmanuel Khondowe, a senior investigations officer at the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) under the anti-money laundering investigations unit, the DEC in May 2022 received information from a reliable source that politically exposed persons had illegally obtained property across Lusaka.
Information from the DEC information indicate that there was real property that was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime at various plot numbers in Lusaka’s State Lodge area and belonged to Esther and her associates, which were acquired between 2013 and 2021.
Khondowe said upon receipt of the information, the DEC constituted a team of investigators who instituted investigations in the matter.
Investigations revealed that the 15 flats belonged to Esther Nyawa Tembo Lungu and the same was confirmed in the lands and deeds register.
He said he wrote to the Ministry of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development requesting for the estimated cost of construction of the 15 blocks of double storey flats and it was revealed that the cost of the flats and other associated works on the properties, as at November 2022, was K41, 586, 110. 66.
Khondowe said he investigated Esther’s financial capacity, in relation to the properties acquired, and that he interviewed Brian Mutakwa, a branch manager at ZANACO were Esther holds an account since March 27, 1995 as a sole signatory.
“The bank account had 65 debit entries worth K2, 511, 117.09 and 79 credit entries with a gross total of about K3, 104, 487.14 as credit and debit turnover between January 1, 2012 and August 16, 2022,” Khondowe said.
“Both credit and debit turnover consisted of inter account transfers of K500, 000. 00 on May 4, 2020, May 4, 2021, August 3, 202, May 10, 2022 and August 3, 2022, thereby increasing turnover on both ends with no fresh inflows.”
It was also established that the Esther Lungu Foundation had a kwacha and dollar account at First National Bank (FNB) and that Esther was one of the signatories of the Kwacha account.
“The Kwacha account had total debit entries worth a gross total of K19, 459, 606. 86 and in this amount, there were placements of about K3, 000, 000 and US$20, 356.70 into fixed deposit accounts, which did not benefit Esther in her personal capacity,” Khondowe said.
In the dollar account, there was a credit balance of US$55, 115.57.
It was also established that Esther had no other income generating activities.
“I conducted an analysis of her known income and known expenditure for the period August 1, 2012 to August 16, 2022 which revealed an income of K3, 104, 487.14 against an expenditure of K2, 511, 117.09 with a variation of K593, 370.05,” said Khondowe.
“I did a comparison of the known income of K3, 104, 487.14 against the four properties with the 15 flats value at K24, 256, 434.55 which showed a variation of K21, 151, 947.41 above her known income.”
By Mwaka Ndawa
Kalemba June 21, 2023