By Wilfred Chama
When I read the email on this website written by Given Lubinda to Wynter Kabimba saying that the PF has received $45 million from Taiwan and Afghanistan, my first reaction was ´these journalists smoke weed´.
I said to myself, what interest does Afghanistan have in Zambia?
But after reading the email several times and trying to make sense out it, I realized that the email does not say from the Afghanistan government but from ´our friends in Afghanistan`.
Then I wondered, who could be these friends and what interest could they have in a poor African country like Zambia?
There is only one credible possibility. These are drug lords and they want to use Zambia for money laundering activities.
I will explain.
There is enough and well documented material on the Internet about drugs in Afghanistan. So, I will not claim to have written these things but will just gather them in a way that makes sense.
Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world´s poorest. In 2010, the nation’s nominal GDP stood at $16.63 billion and the GDP per capita was about $1,000. Its unemployment rate is 35% and roughly 36% of its citizens live below the poverty line. About 42 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, according to USAID.
The drug trade is a very important component of Afghanistan’s economy. Starting at the time of the terrorist attacks in USA, the United States put a high priority to its war against drugs policy in Afghanistan after linking the drug trade to the financing of the Islamic terrorist groups.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai is on record saying that that opium is Afghanistan’s biggest problem. ´Either we destroy the problem or it will destroy us. ´
The UN state that Opium is: the funding source for terrorists, insurgents, and warlords; corrupting Afghan society and perverting its economy; spreading addiction in and around Afghanistan as well as an HIV epidemic.
Statistically, Afghanistan is today by a very wide margin “the world’s largest exporter of heroin” In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounts to an export value of about $64 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers.
This trade is characterized by a complex web of intermediaries. There are various stages of the drug trade, several interlocked markets, from the impoverished poppy farmer in Afghanistan to the wholesale and retail heroin markets in Western countries.
The problem to this business is that the UN has been ‘clamping down’ on Afghanistan with: The Paris Pact which involves over 50 States and organizations cutting down the trafficking and consumption of Afghan opiates.
The Triangular Initiative where UN countries share information and work together to prevent Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan from growing and selling drugs.
Operation TARCET an initiative to prevent the smuggling of the substances needed to grow poppies on an industrial scale into Afghanistan.
Clearly there is a problem for drug dealers in Afghanistan as they are not free to bank and enjoy their money.
And they cannot just sit idle and let their business die. They must be doing something.
Wikipedia defines money laundering as the practice of disguising the origins of illegally-obtained money. Ultimately, it is the process by which the proceeds of crime are made to appear legitimate. The money involved can be generated by any number of criminal acts, including drug dealing, corruption, accounting fraud and other types of fraud, and tax evasion. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication from simple to complex.
Once I visited Kenya and a colleague in Nairobi explained to me that Somali pirates use Kenya to launder their bounty.
He said, when the pirates receive the payments for ransom, they do not take it to Somalia. They buy building in Kenya and deposit some of it directly into banks.
Since Kenya is a respected country with a functioning banking system, money withdrawn form there is legitimate. You can exchange any currency from Kenya and who will question you?
Coming to the question of PF and Afghan drug lords, it would seem that the ambition is daring.
If the drug dealers have put in USD20 million in the Zambian economy through the PF, then what they are expecting is huge.
We risk making our banks the official laundering ponds for Afghan drug money.
The PF should therefore come clean and say that the email is not genuine. Let them sue the Watchdog and force the Watchdog to prove that the email is real.
It will a pity if the drug lords will be controlling our government and use our system to fund terrorism and international drug rings.
I do not see any other reason why Afghan businessmen will inject huge sums of money into Zambia other than a promise to use our bank for cleaning bloody money.
Let us hope this is not true.
But I pity the people involved in this arrangement. What if they lose the election? Drug lords’ don´t take nonsense on their money. You have to deliver on your end or you are dead. We hope this money will not be used to start an insurgency after losing elections for fear of being assassinated by financiers.