Court hears how Chitotela used ‘bribes’ from Chinese contractors to purchase 2 houses
By Staff Reporter
AN INVESTIGATIONS officer from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court how money in United States dollars currency allegedly moved from China Harbour Engineering Limited bank account to finally purchase two properties allegedly owned by Infrastructure and Housing minister Ronald Chitotela.
ACC investigation officer Christopher Siwakwi however, testified that the properties lot number 148 of farm 50A and subdivision A of lot 22183 /M Ibex Hill were established to still be in the names of the previous owners, Mary Lubinga and former labour minister Austin Liato.
In this case, Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga and Brut Holdings are charged with two counts of concealing the two properties while their co-accused Diris Mukange is facing two counts of possession of the same properties, which are suspected to be proceeds of crime but they all pleaded not guilty.
During continued trial in the matter before principal resident magistrate David Simusamba today, Siwakwi said his investigations established that the contract of sale of the properties was the names of Diris Mukange as a buyer for both properties while the negotiations for the prices were done by Chitotela and his wife when he was deputy minister for sports and youth development.
The witness said the price of the property in Makeni was K1.6 million while the Ibex Hill one was purchased at K1.8 million, adding that the source of income to buy the same was tracked back to China Harbour.
Siwakwi recounted how ACC in June 2017 received a complaint that Chitotela was in possession of property suspected to have been proceeds of crime and other allegations in the manner he was allegedly receiving bribes from Chinese contractors.
He said ACC also received further information that the money used to purchase the properties originated from China Harbour.
The witness said the ACC team embarked on investigations to establish whether the allegations were founded.
Siwakwi said he visited the Bank of China where he established that China Harbour had a dollar account with the bank which transfered US$300, 000 to Andrews and Partners on July 27, 2016 at its FNB bank account which was payments for legal services and attached to the bank statement was a contract for the upgrading of Kawambwa -Mporokoso road.
He said after searching the bank statement for Andrews and Partners, he established that there was outgoing payments to Lungu ‘Sim’ as well as a deposit of US$154,000 to MSK Advocates.
He testified that the US$154,000 was for the purchase of the property in Makeni which belonged to Lubinga.
Siwakwi said the negotiations of the price was done by Chitotela and later a contract was drawn for the purchase of the house between Lubinga and a person she never met during negotiations, Diris Mukange.
He said he also established that Chitotela was in control of the property with his wife because Lubinga had differences with the wife over the malfunctioning borehole.
And Siwakwi said on the Ibex Hill property, he discovered that Andrews and Partners paid through a bank transfer of US$140,000, K200,000, K150,000 while the K400,000 was paid through cash to Liato.
He stated that he was later surprised to discover that there was instructions from Brut Holding Limited to Andrews and Partners saying the same US $300,000 which was claimed to have been payment for legal services to purchase the two properties.
Yet on another claim the same amount was paid by China Harbour to Brut Holding for feasibility consultancy services for the upgrading of the Kawambwa -Mporokoso road.
Siwakwi said the claim for the same amount of money by two different companies for different services rendered to China Harbour strengthened his suspicion for the source of the money.
He said the findings of his investigations in the whole matter made him to confirm his suspicion that the US$300,000 from China Harbour to Andrews and Partners and later using it to purchase the two properties which were under the control of the Chitotelas was money suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Another witness, Fiswell Kabunda, narrated how Rock View University where he was the Dean rented a property in Ibex Hill where a Mrs Chitotela was in charge of the dealings.
He however said they did not stay long in the property because of misunderstandings they had with Mrs Chitotela and were refunded K27,800 from the K45,500 they had paid.
Hearing continues on Friday.