The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE upward review of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) from US$10 000 to US$100 000 threshold is hampering investigations of corruption cases in the country with citizens walking away with proceeds of crime while prejudicing the State and its entities of millions of dollars, it has been noted.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has raised alarm over the cap saying citizens were able to acquire unexplained wealth on the basis of the high threshold.
The Acting Prosecutor-General Mr Nelson Mutsonziwa told delegates to an anti-corruption capacity building workshop recently that the cap set in UWO was leaving several cases of corruption uninvestigated.
“Under Statutory Instrument 246 of 2018, Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Amendment Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act Exchange Control Regulations of 2018, the minimum threshold in this SI for Unexplained Wealth Orders applications was USD$10 000.
A subsequent amendment to the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act, raised the threshold to US$100 000.
What this means is that any ill-gotten wealth with a value not exceeding US$100 000 cannot be pursued by the State and the accused person cannot account.
What it means is that we are going to have people committing crimes and accruing wealth that is below
US$100 000 and they are not answerable. As law makers we humbly seek you to urgently look into this regard.”
Mr Mutsonziwa said in line with that, there has been a subsequent decline in high profile corruption cases and cases involving local authorities.
“Currently we are witnessing a decline in dockets on grand or high-profile cases of corruption submitted to the NPA. Most of the grand cases of corruption we have received relate to asset forfeiture cases and very few relate to criminal cases.
The majority of the dockets that we receive are related to what we term petty corruption.
We are also witnessing a sharp decline in the submission of dockets involving senior public officials including councils’ officials,” he said.
The NPA said most of the cases are being reported in Harare and less in other provinces, as of 9 June 2022 Harare had 254 cases on remand and 123 have been given trial dates, 91 trials have since commenced, four are at defence case stage while two are awaiting judgment.
In other provinces, a total of 19 cases were received, four are at State case, two at defence case and one is at judgement stage while four have been completed.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) highlighted that they had received over 300 cases of corruption, however, the NPA said they must name the individuals involved for transparency purposes.
“Of the 300 cases that are with the NPA I think for transparency purposes, it is important for Zacc to say of the 300, who are the names of these people, it is very easy to mention numbers.
But for transparency and accountability cases, Zacc must come up with a list of the people and the dates in which the matters were referred to the NPA so that they are held accountable for people that exist, figures can be misleading,” said Mrs Tariro Rosa Takuva, Chief Public Prosecutor in Bulawayo.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police was during the workshop blasted for paltry conviction rates which stand at about three percent.
However, in response, Assistant Commissioner Themba Mushoriwa said the problem was with over postponement of trials.
“We have finalised 156 corruption cases as ZRP with total convictions standing at 17.
Postponement of cases is a challenge as issues of trials have parties to it such as the accused persons, the complainant and witnesses.
In the long run our observations are that some of the witnesses might not be found and even the accused too.
It is actually a challenge to us,” said Asst Comm Mushoriwa
The NPA has, however, recorded progress in the anti-corruption agenda with a standalone Assert Forfeiture Unit.
The law allows for two forms of forfeiture of property derived from illicit means or used for the furtherance of criminality which are namely Civil and Conviction Based Assert Forfeiture.
“Under the Conviction-Based Asset Forfeiture, the State has to first obtain a conviction against an accused person before an application of forfeiture is made.
On the contrary, under the Civil Based Asset Forfeiture established under the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act, there are no such hindrances.
It is not necessary for there to be a conviction or specific charge against the person, furthermore, unlike criminal trial it is not even necessary for the State to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt or the accused to be present during the proceedings,” said Mr Mutsonziwa.
He said all that has to be proven on a balance of probability is that the property forfeited belonged to the respondent is from proceeds from some illegal conduct or associated with a serious offence or terrorist act.
The NPA has also embarked on an asset forfeiture drive, the first phase saw the NPA bringing a few test cases under the act with a view to develop their law around civil based asset forfeiture.
“This was largely successful, the second phase has already seen the NPA, thanks to collaboration with other investigative agencies, bringing more applications for civil forfeiture in the High Court.
So far, the statistics on civil based asset forfeiture are as follows; total cases handled, 16, four forfeiture orders obtained with a value of US$516 000, seizure orders, one, with a value of US$20 million, interdict orders obtained are three with a value of US$3.7 million, matters pending hearing are four with a value of US$20 million, four judgment reserved cases with a value of US$32 million and the total value as at 31 March 2022 is US$76 260 000,” he noted.