The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) says it is concerned with the manner in which the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) publishes raw intelligence data to the members of the public.
Below is a Statement by the Commissioner Drug Enforcement Commission Ms Alita Mbahwe.
STATEMENT DELIVERED BY THE COMMISSIONER, DRUG ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION, MS ALITA MBAHWE ON THE FIC MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING TRENDS REPORT ON FRIDAY, 7TH JUNE, 2019.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press, I wish to thank you all for attending this briefing aimed at highlighting various issues of importance regarding the 2018 Financial Intelligence Centre Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Trends Report.
First and foremost, I wish to state that the Commission received sixteen (16) cases out of the total number of reports indicated as being disseminated to law enforcement agencies, accounting for 20% and approximately K22 million of the total amount indicated in the FIC Trends Report.
The sixteen cases are currently under investigation at various stages and we will update members of the public on the action taken at an opportune time in order to avoid jeopardising the legal prospects of the cases.
Ladies and gentlemen
While it does not please the Commission to discuss issues of security and intelligence nature in the press, we have been left with no option but to set the record straight in view of the impression created in which law enforcement agencies such as the DEC are seen to be inert or inept in the investigation of intelligence reports disseminated.
While we appreciate that the role of the Financial Intelligence Centre is to educate the public and reporting entities of their obligations as well as inform them of measures to detect, prevent and deter money laundering and financing of terrorism or proliferation, we are of the view that this report should not be published in the manner it has been in the past few years.
Information can either be constructive or destructive depending on how it is managed or disseminated. It is, therefore, important that information is disseminated to the rightful audience in line with a well thought out communication strategy to avoid speculation and undue pressure on Investigative Wings.
This, therefore, means that the FIC should have different information prepared for their different audiences and not the current trend.
We are concerned with the publication of raw intelligence data as it actually compromises investigations by law enforcement agencies.
This is because the same intelligence report disseminated to law enforcement agencies is also disseminated to the public and, therefore, jeopardises investigations as the perpetrators are alerted and begin to destroy vital evidence. In some cases due to the manner in which information is verified foreign nationals have fled the country upon realising that they are under investigation following enquiries made by the FIC.
Further, the intelligence reports disseminated to law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Commission sometimes turn out to be false on enquiry leading to closure of cases, a situation which is always misconstrued as inaction by investigative wings. In certain instances, the method of intelligence gathering used, such as seizure of documents from various institutions affects the quality of our investigations as other supporting documents that may not have been collected are destroyed before investigative wings move in. This in some situations leads to closure of cases due to insufficient evidence or closure due to un-detection.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Drug Enforcement Commission is by law mandated to investigate reports of money laundering and related financial crimes as provided in the Prohibition and Prevention of Money Laundering Act No. 14 of 2001 as amended by Act 44 of 2010. In this regard, you will be interested to note that the Commission receives several reports from various stakeholders. From January – December, 2018 the Commission received 308 financial intelligence reports for investigation and that includes dissemination from the FIC. Further, of the 308 reports, 45 were from the Auditor General’s Report while 247 were from members of the public.
Despite the workload and complex nature of Money Laundering investigations, the Commission has been working round the clock to ensure that each report is treated on a case-by-case basis by looking at the merits of each individual case for eventual arrest and prosecution. Money Laundering cases take a long time to be concluded as such, I wish to assure members of the public that the Commission is actively working to fulfil its mandate and contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation.
We have on several occasions engaged the Financial Intelligence Centre on the need to review their modus operandi to avoid compromising investigations as well as creating a false impression. It is our hope that steps will be taken in this regard because part of the assessment criteria for money laundering compliance with international standards is the effective collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the Financial Intelligence Centre. There is need for effective collaboration and coordination if we are to fight all offences such as corruption, tax evasion, fraud, drug trafficking and money laundering in Zambia.
The Commission, therefore, remains committed to the fight against money laundering and other related financial crimes which negatively affect the nation’s economic development. We also remain open to collaborate with all stakeholders in order to effectively enforce the law for the betterment of the nation.
I Thank you