THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has started the process to track down, seize and repatriate movable and immovable assets worth more than US$13 million acquired by Zimbabweans in five foreign jurisdictions using proceeds of corruption.
Through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe has sent requests to the United Arab Emirates, China, South Africa, United Kingdom and the Isle of Man for assistance in tracking down and seizing assets owned by convicts and suspects in corruption cases.
It is strongly believed that some money looted in Zimbabwe by high-profile individuals, including politicians, was externalised and used to buy properties in foreign lands.
Zacc commissioner for legal affairs Ms Jessie Majome, said processes were already in motion to seize tainted property in the five jurisdictions. The Isle of Man is generally regarded as part of Britain but is a separate legal jurisdiction for some purposes and so needs a separate approach.
“A total of five case files were referred to the NPA for further referral to Interpol and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Mutual Legal Assistance Request in different jurisdictions namely, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, China and the Isle of Man.
“The properties have an estimated total value of US$13 516 728.00 ($1 094 854 968. 00). The parties involved are notable politically-exposed persons, one of whom, is involved in the NatPharm saga, whom we cannot name at this stage in order not to jeopardise our investigations,” said Comm Majome.
Comm Majome said locally, Zacc managed to seize 24 vehicles now parked at the Zacc Strathaven premises in Harare as part of the commission’s thrust to recover ill-gotten wealth. The vehicles are valued at US$1,5 million.
“The asset forfeiture unit seized a total of 24 motor vehicles and the same are held at our offices at Number 5 Golda Avenue Strathaven, Avondale. The motor vehicles have a total value of US$1 500 000.00,” she said.
Zacc has also referred to the NPA eight more files in which they seek to forfeit houses and other immovable properties in Zimbabwe and these cases are now pending at the High Court.
“A total of eight immovable properties were seized and are still under investigations. These properties are valued at US$2 070 500.00 (ZWL$165 640 000.00). Zacc is seized with 36 cases since we introduced civil asset forfeiture and recovery strategy (outside criminal convictions) as the current commission came into office in 2019,” said Comm Majome.
Zacc’s civil forfeiture efforts recently began to bear fruit with the High Court ordering forfeiture of a house in Mabvazuva suburb of Ruwa worth US$100 000.
The house, built on a 600 square metre stand, belonged to a Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals stores controller, Russel Tatenda Mwenye, who is facing criminal corruption charges after he ordered supplies at inflated prices from a company he was connected with.
The High Court found there was a probable chain of links connecting the purchase of the house to the inflated prices of the successful supplier.
Parirenyatwa reportedly lost US$500 000 and more than $600 000 after Mwenye allegedly flouted the tender procedures and offered Silksilver Investments (Pvt) Ltd the tender to supply medical sutures on many occasions.
He then allegedly used the proceeds generated by these awards to build a house in Mabvazuva, Ruwa.
When Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo joined Zacc in May 2019, no asset recoveries were being done but she has introduced the idea of forfeiting all ill-gotten wealth.
Asset forfeiture and seizure is a civil matter, where the proof required is on the balance of probabilities. Criminal convictions rely on the stricter standard of beyond reasonable doubt.
This means that while there might not be proof to convict someone, the same evidence shows that person probably acquired the assets dubiously and so these can then be seized.